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A critique of the monolingual language of record policy for South African courts in relation to university language policies
Zakeera Docrat1, Russell Harold Kaschula2
1Rhodes University, South Africa; 2Rhodes University, South Africa
This paper critiques the 2017 policy directive by the Heads of Court to make English the sole official language of record in all South African courts (Hlophe, 2018), despite the fact that the Constitution confers official status on eleven languages, nine of which are African indigenous languages. The authors seek to advance that the language of record policy directive is unconstitutional and that there is a need for legislating African language requirements for LLB students, legal practitioners and judicial officers in order to change the language of record. This paper examines the relationship between the language planning processes of universities and the legal system. Furthermore, the role which university language policies play in affecting the linguistic competencies of legal practitioners is assessed and how this impacts on the realisation of Section 35(3)(k) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, which confers a right on accused, arrested and detained persons to be tried in a language they fully understand (Currie & de Waal, 2013). The case of State v Gordon (2018) and additional court cases concerning the language of record will be analysed. The Constitutional Court judgment of Afriforum and Another v University of the Free State (2017) concerning the constitutionality of the monolingual language policies of South African universities will be discussed. This paper assesses the impact a monolingual language of record has on the concept of access to justice. The paper concludes with legal and linguistically sound recommendations.