Nzimande will not allow Afrikaans 'university' to operate if it excludes certain groups

23 September 2019 - 16:33 By Orrin Singh
Higher education minister Blade Nzimande.
Higher education minister Blade Nzimande.

Higher education minister Blade Nzimande says he will not allow a proposed Afrikaans college to operate if it contravenes the bill of rights by excluding certain groups based on race or culture.

Nzimande was speaking in Durban on Monday regarding the construction of an Afrikaans-based occupational training college, Sol-Tech, in Centurion, Pretoria.

Construction has already begun on the college, which is being spearheaded by trade union Solidarity.

Nzimande said the constitution is clear in that there is nothing wrong with private companies or entities establishing higher education institutions - but should any institution go against the bill of rights, he would not sign off on it.

"As you might be aware, there are media reports that Solidarity aims to build a R300m private Afrikaans university in Centurion. As a department, we have not received any application for any such institution," he said.

Nzimande said the current legal framework for registering private higher education institutions does not permit them to be referred to as universities. "The department is in the process of establishing the legal framework for the registration of higher education institutions as higher education colleges, university-colleges or universities," he said.

He said the policies of the the department require adherence to the bill of rights as contained in the constitution.

"If any registered private education institution fails to honour the bill of rights or does not follow the national goals of social integration and cohesion, including using any official languages to exclude South Africans, its registration will be immediately cancelled or not approved in the first place," he said. 

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Solidarity's head of research, Connie Mulder, said the occupational training college is not a whites-only institution.

"All we're saying is that we'd like to use our mother tongue as a language of instruction, as articles 29, 30 and 31 of the constitution allow and encourage. Surely the intention was not to use these clauses as an excuse for whites-only institutions?" he said.

Mulder said the institution would not exclude black people.

When questioned as to whether mostly white people had already enrolled to study at the institution, Mulder said: "Mostly Afrikaans. If those people happen to be white, then yes. But it's a worrying trend if we're trying to say certain people can't exercise their constitutional rights because it might lead to a certain race group being the only race group at a particular institution."

According to reports, the campus is expected to open its doors in January 2021 and will  be funded through donations.