African Languages, Development and the State

By Richard Fardon; Graham Furniss | Go to book overview

Part II

Central and Southern Africa

The political imperatives that lie behind three of the papers in this section relate to the recognition of diversity within state boundaries where the state has hitherto recognised and promoted only one or some of the languages, predominantly those of the élites or of the former colonial power. In this respect, these papers, by Katupha, Benjamin and Maake, echo the programmatic statements that have been the subject of debate since the 1960s in other parts of Africa. They address policy issues about recognition and the allocation of state resources, based upon a restatement of the multi-ethnic and multilingual social reality of the state and a belief that a ‘new’ state can emerge, more cohesive and less conflict-ridden, through the recognition of legitimate aspirations to deploy and value ‘own’ language and culture within a state which recognizes a variety of such languages and cultures.

For Mozambique, Katupha characterizes Portuguese, which was promoted as a tool of national unification in the face of troubling diversity, as contributing to defining élite membership. Certainly, not knowing Portuguese excluded individuals from the élite. At the same time, economic and technological development, if it is to involve the majority of the people, can be promoted only through the use of African languages. Katupha’s solution is the long term promotion, through the education system, of ‘functional bilingualism’ such that, with resources allocated to the development of African languages, it will be possible for Mozambican citizens to function in a variety of sectors in their own languages, while having access to other spheres of communication through Portuguese. For South Africa, the subject of the papers by Benjamin and Maake, the situation is further complicated by the fact that the development of the use of African languages was part of the agenda of the Apartheid state. Opposition to Apartheid involved, to some extent, the insistence on English as the medium for resistance; to promote the use of African languages was tantamount to endorsing the so-called ‘independent homelands’. In this context, therefore, in recognition of the fact

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