I consider the invitation to deliver the inaugural lecture in the EB van Wyk Honorary Lecture series to be a great honour bestowed on me by the University of Johannesburg, especially since this series is intended “to contribute in a linguistically responsible way to the debate on language matters in these times of social transformation”.
It is my view that all the central issues of South African life should, after almost 20 years of liberal democracy, be revisited, reviewed and, where necessary revised, so that we can right ourselves if it becomes obvious that we have been straying on to unnecessary detours (the Afrikaans word dwaalspoor captures my meaning perfectly). The language question is one of these central issues, next to, among others, the economic system and, as President Zuma had occasion to remind everyone recently, the land question.
Will South Africa’s middle class and its intellectuals find the courage, have they got the imagination, to commit class suicide by moving away decisively from the current English-mainly and often English-only language policy, with all its negative consequences for a democratic polity?” Neville Alexander
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