Quest for Sepu­lana lan­guage’s recog­ni­tion gets ma­jor boost at Shatale li­brary in Bush­buck­ridge

Sunday World - - Viewpoint - Good­e­nough Mashego

Start­ing from this week when one walks into Shatale pub­lic li­brary they will be wel­comed by a plague bear­ing the fol­low­ing in­for­ma­tion: ‘Bobeya­puku bjo bo budiwe sem­musho ke Mohlom­pegi MEC Mmane MNS Manana wa Kgoro ya Setjo, Go Kgana le Go te jabud­isa ka di13 tsa Hlakubele 2014’.

In English it means: “This Li­brary was of­fi­cially opened by the Honourable MEC Ms MNS Manana of the Depart­ment of Cul­ture, Sport and Re­cre­ation on the 13th of March 2014.”

The sym­bol­ism for Bush­buck­ridge res­i­dents is that it is the first time that a gov­ern­ment en­tity has agreed to use their long marginalised lan­guage in of­fi­cial sig­nage af­ter re­sist­ing con­certed lob­by­ing to adopt Sepu­lana on the sig­nage as one of the of­fi­cial lan­guages of Mpumalanga when a Pro­vin­cial Lan­guages Act was passed in 2014.

Af­ter decades of bat­tling to have Sepu­lana recog­nised as an in­dige­nous lan­guage wor­thy of its own space in the coun­try, Mpumalanga fi­nally en­acted an act that would as­sist gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tion that spoke to res­i­dents of the prov­ince.

Mpumalanga stretches from Bush­buck­ridge in the north to Nko­mazi in the East, Stander­ton in the south and Emalahleni in the west.

How­ever, in ei­ther its wis­dom or folli­ness the depart­ment of cul­ture, sports and re­cre­ation, which spon­sored the Lan­guages Act des­ig­nated English, Afrikaans, Isin­de­bele and SiSwati as the four of­fi­cial lan­guages of the prov­ince; which meant they were the ones that ev­ery of­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion would be pro­duced in.

This was against a back­ground that in Bush­buck­ridge es­pe­cially none of those lan­guages are spo­ken by size­able num­bers in the com­mu­ni­ties.

They speak Shangaan (not Xit­songa) and Sepu­lana (not Se­pedi). Xit­songa and Se­pedi were im­posed on Bush­buck­ridge by the apartheid home­land gov­ern­ments of Le­bowa and Gazankulu re­spec­tively.

Dur­ing the home­land sys­tem Bush­buck­ridge was split into two eth­nic en­claves. The great grand­chil­dren of Manukusi (later named Soshangane) who trace their lin­eage to amaNd­wandwe were forced to speak a lan­guage alien to their heroic an­ces­tors. The same was with Ma­pu­lana who had Se­pedi im­posed in their daily life since each home­land had one lan­guage much to the detri­ment of other lin­guis­tic com­mu­ni­ties.

Thus, the nar­ra­tive that Ma­pu­lana were Ba­pedi gained trac­tion as apartheid in­tended. It was hurt­ing to see the ANC gov­ern­ment em­brac­ing the same nar­ra­tive and even al­leg­ing Sepu­lana was a “dialect” of Se­pedi.

Mpumalanga gov­ern­ment re­fused to ac­cord Sepu­lana its sta­tus re­gard­less of ad­vo­cacy by cul­tural bod­ies such as Bana Ba Tau Setl­hano and Ma­pu­la­neng Writ­ers As­so­ci­a­tion.

Even PanSALB, whose man­date is de­vel­op­ment of in­dige­nous lan­guages has re­peat­edly failed to ex­plain to Ma­pu­lana why their lan­guage is not ac­corded an of­fi­cial sta­tus even if it’s in Mpumalanga re­gard­less of mu­sic, films, lit­er­a­ture and other art­works be­ing pro­duced in it.

That is why the sig­nage at Shatale li­brary was a breath of fresh air. The depart­ment has taken a first step to­wards pro­vin­cial recog­ni­tion of this great na­tion and the lan­guage of its an­ces­tors. Hope­fully the next step will be to set up Sepu­lana Lan­guage Units at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment with the mu­nic­i­pal In­te­grated De­vel­op­ment Plan (IDP) of 2019 be­ing pro­duced wholly in Sepu­lana. Ma­pu­lana view the de­vel­op­ment as a pos­i­tive one. Ket­sot­sone boweru! (There it is)

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