Sign language becomes SA’s 12th official language

todayJuly 19, 2023 104

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law the South African Sign Language Bill, making it the country’s 12th official language.
In May this year, the National Assembly approved that a section of the Constitution be amended to include Sign Language as one of the country’s official languages.
Ramaphosa says the new legislation seeks to advance the cultural acceptance of persons who are deaf.
“South African Sign Language is an indigenous language that constitutes an important element of South African linguistic and cultural heritage. It has its distinct grammatical structures and lexicon, and it is independent of any other language,” says the president.
South Africa joins Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda to become the 4th African state to recognise sign language.

The country’s Constitution only recognised 11 languages namely: Sepedi , Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.

The deaf community and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament have welcomed the government’s move.

“Members of the children’s parliament have been advocating for the recognition of the sign language as an official language to accommodate children who are deaf or hard of hearing. During their 10th sitting in 2021, the members of the children’s parliament appointed Hamza Muhammad as their President, a deaf boy from the Dominican School in the Western Cape,” says the President of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament, honourable Dikgang Morudu.

Upon receiving the news Hamza said the signing of the bill into law was good news for deaf people.

“As a deaf person and former President of the Children’s Parliament, I have always wanted South Africa to make sign language official. I am happy to hear that President Cyril Ramaphosa has recognised it as an official language,” said Hamza.

He also added that the signing of the bill shows that there are no two separate worlds in the country.

“We are all human beings who live in one world and deaf people also have rights. I would like to thank the President for supporting deaf people in the country,” he said.

Written by: Lindiwe Mpanza

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