AfriForum slammed for ‘deceitful conduct’ in court

01 December 2016 - 16:18 By Sipho Mabena

Afrikaner interest group AfriForum has come under fire for basing its case against the University of Pretoria's new language policy on “illegally obtained information”.

Image: University of Pretoria

On Thursday‚ the university's lawyer‚ Advocate Gilbert Marcus SC‚ charged that the full bench of the Pretoria high court could not overlook the rights group's “'deceitful conduct”.

  • UFS tackles AfriForum on right to retain language policyThe University of the Free State laid into Afrikaans lobby group AfriForum in the Constitutional Court, saying the group did not represent the views of the majority of Afrikaans-speaking people. 

At issue is the information from an unidentified informant‚ who happens to be a member of the university council‚ leaked to AfriForum that the council had resolved to drop Afrikaans as the medium of instruction.

Marcus SC said the informant was subject to rules of council and bound by confidentiality‚ therefore the informant was in breach of the rule of confidentiality.

  • Language war hots up at universitiesThe fight to keep Afrikaans as a language of instruction at universities is hotting up, with the Higher Education Network vowing to join court cases over the issue as friends of the court. 

He said the council's decision-making process was dependant on the capacity of all those who attend meetings to be frank and debate robustly.

Marcus lamented that the AfriForum's informant compromised the work of the council‚ saying this had “a chilling effect on must carry consequences”.

He implored the court to rap the rights group over the knuckles‚ saying if AfriForum loses its case‚ the court should impose costs‚ including those of two attorneys.

“If the university fails‚ AfriForum must be denied costs due to their conduct‚” he said. AfriForum lawyer‚ Greta Engelbrecht‚ is set to respond when the court resumes after lunch.

The group‚ together with trade union Solidarity‚ wants the court to review and set aside decisions of the university senate and council to adopt a new language policy that retains English as the only medium of instruction as of next year.

The argument advanced is that the right for everyone to be taught in the language of their choice‚ as long as it is reasonably practical‚ was enshrined in the Constitution. But the university countered that this was a narrow and short-sighted vision of what the constitution tries to achieve‚ arguing that the university was simply addressing the history of exclusion and privilege.

TMG Digital/The Times