The order follows the successful application by Civil rights group AfriForum Youth for an interim interdict forcing the university to revert to the language specifications contained in the university’s 2016 year book and to protect the equality of Afrikaans and English as mediums of instruction.
AfriForum Youth’s legal representatives appeared briefly in court asking for the university to implement its won language policy. Deputy Judge President, Jeanette Traverso, had no hesitation in granting the order. This will force the university to revert to its “approved language policy” by the end of March.
In court papers George Steyn, Chairperson of the US Council, admitted that the language in which some modules are presented does not comply with the language specifications contained in the 2016 year book. He said there were 268 modules that did not comply with the language specifications in the respective faculties.
In his affidavit he claimed that the Executive Committee of the Council and the Rector’s management team accepted that the US acted unlawfully in terms of the deviations from the language specifications of the Yearbook.
AfriForum Youth said in a statement it requested that the Stellenbosh University Council’s decision of 20 February 2016, according to which the language policy may be applied flexibly, be declared null and void and set aside.
Steyn said the Executive Committee of the Council and the Rector’s management team accepted that this decision was legally contestable, as it constituted a change to the language plan without having followed the prescribed legal process or without consulting AfriForum, as the US had undertaken to do.
AfriForum’s lawyer, Daniel Rossouw, said the university would be required to give English and Afrikaans equal status as mediums of instruction. The parties would return to court at a date still to be determined.
Rossouw said his clients felt compelled to approach the court after they discovered that some faculties did not comply with the university’s self-published language policy.
AfriForum Youth spokesperson, Hein Gonzales, said they had received numerous complaints from students who insisted to be instructed in Afrikaans. “This is a triumph for the Afrikaans-speaking community in South-Africa. It is clear that Prof (Wim) de Villiers (Rector) and his managing team does not have the interests of students and the University at heart… We had to come to court to force the university to implement its own language policy.”
Gonzales said they had received a mandate and students wanted to receive a tertiary education in their mother tongue.
Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel, Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching – who has been singled out in AfriForum Youth’s application papers together with De Villiers – as those behind the deviation from the language policy – confirmed Steyn’s affidavit in an affidavit of his own, to the extent that it related to him (Schoonwinkel) and the Rector’s management team.
Source: The South African