UFS to continue language policy fight

RESTATING ITS CASE: The University of the Free State must show the courts the merits of its decision for choosing only one language of instruction in the Supreme Court of Appeal this morning.Picture: Supplied

The University of the Free State (UFS) is expected to ask the Supreme Court of Appeal to uphold its provisional ruling made last November and allow the university to implement its language policy when it returns to court this morning.

The language policy phases out Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, making English the only language of teaching at the institution.

The university is set to argue that the case brought against it by civil rights organisation AfriForum and trade union Solidarity, on its newly implemented language policy, does not have a basis. In its court papers, the university argues that neither Solidarity nor its members, who are employees of the UFS, have any entitlement to assert a section 29(2) choice of language.

The section states that everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where education is reasonably practicable.

It further states that 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 equity, practicability and lastly, the need to redress the results of past racially discriminatory laws and practices.

The university asserts that the rightbearers of section 29(2) rights are students. It said Solidarity does not purport to represent students or the public interest. The institution will also argue that Solidarity does not have standing, and the High Court should have upheld the UFS’ objection to its participation in the proceedings as second applicant.

Instead, the High Court simply stated that “in the interest of its members, Solidarity do have standing”.

“The judgment provides no analysis of the interests of Solidarity’s members in these proceedings and therefore fails to support any conclusion on standing,” the university said.

It argues that crucially, the High Court entirely failed to address the review grounds with reference to the actual facts and against the correct legal principles.

It said for this reason and others, there is no factual or legal basis for granting the relief which AfriForum and Solidarity sought and the High Court granted. We accordingly ask that the appeal be upheld. In November, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that it could implement its language policy.

The university has been locked in a court battle with AfriForm and Solidarity, who earlier this year challenged its decision to make English its sole medium of instruction.

The university lost the matter in the Free State High Court last year and its bid to appeal at the Constitutional Court in September was dismissed with costs. The High Court found that the implementation of the language policy was unlawful.

In November, the court ruled that the implementation process may continue until the dispute over the merits of the decisions by the university’s senate and council in favour of English as a primary medium of instruction will be heard in 2017.

Kamogelo Seekoei| kamogelos@thenewage.co.za