The denigration of Kaaps to elevate suiwer or pure Afrikaans was masterminded by the architects of apartheid who, in the ’50s, broke up mixed-language and diverse communities like District Six in Cape Town while banishing the vernacular from classrooms.
Even today, Kaaps-speaking children at school are taught in English or textbook Afrikaans, which sound foreign to them, says Williams.
In 1976 the imposition of teaching in Afrikaans sparked the uprising in Soweto and, ironically, 45 years on, language barriers still stifle learning in Cape Flats schools. Williams says they want the school curriculum to open up for learning in Kaaps.
This would include cognitive subjects like maths, and to offer content for students and pupils in their mother tongue.
Universities should allow students to do postgraduate degrees and write their theses in Kaaps, says Haupt, who has written two academic books and co-edited another related to post-apartheid counterculture and hip-hop, in collaboration with hip-hop artists.
“The idea of the dictionary is to be a resource for speakers, for educators and for policymakers, for them to understand and respect Kaaps and not to dismiss it as slang,” he says.
Formalising the language will help to debunk the stereotypes perpetrated for decades against “Afrikaans speakers who are not white”, such as Kaaps being a gangster dialect, says Williams.
Children on the Cape Flats are born into three languages, Kaaps, English and Sabela (the language of the number gangs), he notes. With the steady rise of Kaaps and publications in the language since 2000 — about 100 books at the last count by Williams — children are getting wider exposure to it.