UNESCO Social and Human Sciences
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South Africa

Constitution as adopted on 8 May 1996.

Section 6

    (1) The official languages of the Republic are Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.

    (2) Recognising the historically diminished use and status of the indigenous languages of our people, the state must take practical and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of these languages.


      (a) The national government and provincial governments may use any particular official languages for the purposes of government, taking into account usage, practicality, expense, regional circumstances and the balance of the needs and preferences of the population as a whole or in the province concerned; but the national government and each provincial government must use at least two official languages.
      (b) Municipalities must take into account the language usage and preferences of their residents.

    (4) The national government and provincial governments, by legislative and other measures, must regulate and monitor their use of official languages. Without detracting from the provisions of subsection (2), all official languages must enjoy parity of esteem and must be treated equitably.

    (5) A Pan South African Language Board established by national legislation must -

      (a) promote and create conditions for the development and use of -
        (i) all official languages;
        (ii) the Khoi, Nama and San languages; and
        (iii) sign language ; and
      (b) promote and ensure respect for -
        (i) all languages commonly used by communities in South Africa, including German, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Portuguese, Tamil, Telegu and Urdu; and
        (ii) Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit and other languages used for religious purposes in South Africa.

Section 9

    (3) The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.

    (2) In regions of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia inhabited by national minorities, the languages and scripts of these minorities shall also be in official use in the manner prescribed by law.

Section 29

    (2) Everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where that education is reasonably practicable. In order to ensure the effective access to, and implementation of, this right, the state must consider all reasonable educational alternatives, including single medium institutions, taking into account -
      (a) equity;
      (b) practicability; and
      (c) the need to redress the results of past racially discriminatory laws and practices.

Section 30

    Everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice, but no one exercising these rights may do so in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.

Section 31

    (1) Persons belonging to a cultural, religious or linguistic community may not be denied the right, with other members of that community -
      (a) to enjoy their culture, practise their religion and use their language; and
      (b) to form, join and maintain cultural, religious and linguistic associations and other organs of civil society.

    (2) The rights in subsection (1) may not be exercised in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.

Section 35

    (3) Every accused person has a right to a fair trial, which includes the right -
      (k) to be tried in a language that the accused person understands or, if that is not practicable, to have the proceedings interpreted in that language;

    (4) Whenever this section requires information to be given to a person, that information must be given in a language that the person understands.

    (5) Evidence obtained in a manner that violates any right in the Bill of Rights must be excluded if the admission of that evidence would render the trial unfair or otherwise be detrimental to the administration of justice.

Section 185

    (1) The primary objects of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities are -
      (a) to promote respect for the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities;
      (b) to promote and develop peace, friendship, humanity, tolerance and national unity among cultural, religious and linguistic communities, on the basis of equality, non-discrimination and free association; and
      (c) to recommend the establishment or recognition, in accordance with national legislation, of a cultural or other council or councils for a community or communities in South Africa.

    (2) The Commission has the power, as regulated by national legislation, necessary to achieve its primary objects, including the power to monitor, investigate, research, educate, lobby, advise and report on issues concerning the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities.

    (3) The Commission may report any matter which falls within its powers and functions to the Human Rights Commission for investigation.

    (4) The Commission has the additional powers and functions prescribed by national legislation.

Section 186

    (1) The number of members of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities and their appointment and terms of office must be prescribed by national legislation.

    (2) The composition of the Commission must-

      (a) be broadly representative of the main cultural, religious and linguistic communities in South Africa; and
      (b) broadly reflect the gender composition of South Africa.

Section 235

    The right of the South African people as a whole to self-determination, as manifested in this Constitution, does not preclude, within the framework of this right, recognition of the notion of the right of self-determination of any community sharing a common cultural and language heritage, within a territorial entity in the Republic or in any other way, determined by national legislation.

Note: The complete text of the Constitution and further information on the constitutional background of South Africa are provided by the International Constitutional Law Project at the University of Bern.

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