But Seriously: ‘Die Stem’ is but the tip of the iceberg

Johannesburg – Just as some of us were perfecting three out of the four lines of Die Stem, there’s a call to scrap it from the national anthem.

It is the third line of Die Stem that always gets tongues in a knot.

The third verse of our national anthem aside, there’s a lot that needs fixing in South Africa.

Take the name of our country for instance – South Africa. Ours is a location of where our country is rather than a name.

The first thing that our neighbours did when they got their independence from South Africa in 1990 was to change the name of their country from South West Africa to Namibia.

Mighty South Africa, however, is still stuck with coordinates as its name.

Even the advent of the internet did not see us worthy of SA.

That honour was given to Saudi Arabia, though backward when it comes to freedom of expression, association, and belief; women and girl rights; criminal justice and migrant labour, Saudi Arabia was accorded the honour of having is domains end with SA.

South Africa got za.

Also, we have 11 official languages, with the two that are spoken by a small fraction of the population as mediums of instruction.

Only 9.6% of our population speak English as a first language.

However, it is the language of instruction, it is the language that measures your education, class and intelligence.

And Afrikaans with only 13.5% of the population who are native speakers of the language is the most established language in South Africa with even official forms, whether they are for applying for an ID, passport, learners or driver’s licence, giving you the option to either use Afrikaans and English to complete them.

And there are enclaves of Afrikaans all over South Africa, from Afrikaans medium schools and, until recently, Afrikaans universities.

It is so established you can study in Afrikaans from kindergarten and even end up with post-doctoral degrees in the language.

IsiXhosa, spoken by 16% of the population, is nowhere near the stature Afrikaans has in our society. IsiZulu, which is spoken by almost a quarter of the population, has been reduced to ethnicity.

Apartheid is still succeeding in dividing black people along ethnic lines.

Today, black parents – and I mean the moneyed kind that can afford to send their children to model C schools and private schools – will choose Afrikaans as a second language for their children over isiZulu or Sepedi.

You hate Die Stem but you love for your children to learn Afrikaans ahead of any other widely spoken languages in this country.

It is, therefore, a cop-out to single out Die Stem when it is but a part of a bigger project of redress that should still happen in South Africa.

For more political news and views from this week’s paper, click here. 

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