AfriForum demands ‘short-sighted’ Legal Practice Council reinstate Afrikaans exams

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. File Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. File Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 8, 2024


AfriForum has written to the Legal Practice Council (LPC), demanding it reinstate Afrikaans exams, after it issued a notice in December that all examinations would now be in English only.

In the notice, which was published on December 13, 2023, the senior manager for education and training at the LPC said their exams would be offered in English only from this year onwards.

The decision will affect competency-based examinations for candidate attorneys and students in the conveyancing and notarial practice examinations.

AfriForum has slammed the decision as short-sighted and called for the inclusion of more languages, instead of the exclusion of the Afrikaans language.

“The LPC has resolved that, from the first sitting of the examinations in 2024, all examinations will be offered in English only. This is in line with the LPC-approved Language Policy, which was approved and adopted by Council on 20 November 2020.

“In terms of the LPC Language Policy, English is the language of record for the LPC, and all internal and external communication will be in English. External communication includes communication between the LPC, Provincial Councils, the legal profession, its stakeholders, and members of the public. It also includes examinations and assessments conducted through the LPC,” it said.

They added that the LPC's policy was also informed by the fact that English was the language of record in court proceedings and the predominant language used in business, international politics, commerce, and industry.

Alana Bailey, AfriForum’s head of Cultural Affairs, said the explanation by the LPC was laughable.

“The LPC claims that Afrikaans candidates are unfairly benefiting from being examined in their mother language, while the examinations cannot be taken in any other indigenous language.

“The solution is to extend language rights and make the examination material available in more languages. Instead, the LPC’s solution is to deprive even more people of their language rights.

“This is clearly an attack against Afrikaans and Afrikaans-speaking legal professionals, and not an attempt to protect or promote anyone’s rights.”

AfriForum’s own polls in the past, said Bailey, had shown that legal professionals and their clients require the use of their own languages.

“Although the court record language is currently English only, attorneys provide extensive services to the public.

“Among other things, they draft contracts and wills, offer advice on diverse issues, and proceed with litigation. In all of these cases, the clients have to understand the processes and content of the services fully.

“This is not possible to the same extent in a second or third language; use of the client’s mother language is essential.

“Misunderstandings due to translation errors can result in damages for the clients, malpractices, and travesties of justice. It is therefore essential that South African lawyers must not be proficient in English only. In the letter, AfriForum also asked which steps the LPC is taking to ensure that the exams will be available in more official languages in future.”

Bailey called on the LPC to reinstate Afrikaans exams quickly.

“The LPC as a legal body should have more insight into the rights of people and communities. This short-sighted and hostile decision of theirs is tragic and must be opposed.

“If the LPC does not respond positively to AfriForum’s letter, the latter will take the necessary steps to do so in collaboration with other interested parties,” Bailey said.

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