SA Government Criticised For Using English As Its Only Medium of Communication

The Pan South African Language Board has criticised the South African government for using English as the only medium of communication when the country has been conveying important communications regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.


The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) has criticised the South African government for using English as the only medium of communication when the country has been conveying important communications regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.

In April 2020, when South African just started learning about the coronavirus pandemic, fake news spread very quickly and the government tried to combat this by criminalizing the spread of fake news. Now the country struggles with misinformation regarding the vaccines which is spread amongst communities and on social media. 

This misinformation is causing hesitancy in people registering to receive the vaccine which could mean that it could take longer for the country to reach herd immunity. 

The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) says that this could be due to the government only using English as the primary language to communicate to the country. 

Acting CEO of PanSALB, Xolisa Tshongolo says that if people were receiving the correct information in a language which they understand and can process information then this would have reduced risks of misinformation spreading within communities. 

Tshongolo says that many people within 'deep rural areas' are not aware of the virus and its dangers and that this stems from a lack of information provided to them in a language which they understand.

"When it comes to these previously marginalised languages we are not doing enough to ensure these languages are used properly and to their fullest in order to serve our communities. This is one of the democratic gains that we are not fully exploring as the country," Tshongolo said.

He says that PanSALB has assisted the government in translating information about Covid-19. 

The SABC's Nguni language news bulletin also worked together to translate words pertaining to the coronavirus such as 'social distancing' for the benefit of their viewers. 

"Government must use the languages of our people to communicate with them especially during times of disaster like this," said Tshongolo.

Radios are also used to convey important messages regarding Covid-19 and the National Community Radio Forum Chairperson Xola Nozewu said that simplifying these messages that are used in communities can make a difference. 

"Community radio stations is an essential part of the South African broadcasting landscape, it is a very pervasive media, despite the rise of social media. It provides diversity for listeners and caters information needs of people living in particular communities. It does this through languages that are spoken in those communities."- National Community Radio Forum Chairperson, Xola Nozewu.

Nozewu says that community radio stations have been able to provide information on the effects of Covid-19 by relaying statistics and speaking to local doctors and department officials to inform people of the virus and the status of hospitals. He says that radio stations will also have a roll to play in the vaccine rollout. 

The department who is responsible for communicating government information the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) has translated all information in the 11 official languages as South Africa begins Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout.



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