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Mnangagwa expected at national languages conference

by Staff reporter
14 Jun 2022 at 06:32hrs | Views
THE three-day National Languages Conference opens today in Victoria Falls with President Mnangagwa expected to give the keynote address tomorrow.

The theme is: "Redefining the role of Zimbabwean languages for national development towards Vision 2030 and beyond." The conference seeks to define in detail the role and place of all officially-recognised indigenous languages although some are not actively used in national development as well as the promotion, preservation and conservation of cultural heritage.

Zimbabwe has 16 official languages in the 2013 Constitution: Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Khoisan, Nambya, Ndau, IsiNdebele, Shangani, Xhosa, Sign Language, Sesotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda and ChiShona. While the size of the community speaking the language and the use of the language outside its community, all have a significant number of speakers, hence their Constitutional status.

The conference will bring together experts in the areas of African languages and linguistics, and leading thought leaders in the nation to craft a roadmap towards the finalisation of the Language Bill which will pave the way for the formulation of a clear-cut language policy for the country's linguistic landscape.

Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo said President Mnangagwa will officially open the conference.

"The conference is a reflection of the commitment by the Second Republic towards harnessing national languages into all-inclusive development and constitutional democracy anchored on the national ethos of inclusive citizenship, dignity, equality and the promotion of basic freedoms and fundamental rights."

Minister Moyo said the conference was driven by the realisation that all national languages are pivotal in fulfilling goals under the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).

Deputy Director for Communications and Advocacy in Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Mr Ranson Madzamba said some of the pertinent issues that will be discussed during the three-day conference include unpacking and redefining the role of local languages for national development towards Vision 2030 and beyond and national prosperity and equal citizenship.

"The National Languages Conference will dwell on the importance of having all the officially recognised languages operationalised. The conference, through many insightful presentations, will flesh-out the contents of the National Languages Bill and the efficacy of the fulfilment of the obligation imposed by Section 6 of the Constitution," he said.

"The conference also seeks to define more closely the role and place of all the officially recognised and the yet-to-be officially recognised indigenous languages in matters of national development as well as the promotion, preservation and conservation of cultural heritage."

Mr Madzamba said driven by a clear sense of decolonisation, the National Language Conference is in pursuit of the goal of aligning the country's linguistic resources to Vision 2030 as guided by the NDS1.

Cabinet recently adopted the Principles for the Languages Bill, which were presented by Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry.

The principles of the proposed Languages Bill underpin the need for the promotion of multilingualism, respect of language rights and linguistic preference as fundamental to the process of nationalism, development of augmentative and alternative communication systems for people with impediments that inhibit communication.

It also recognises and promotes languages as cultural wealth. The Bill also seeks to see the establishment and maintenance of institutional structures, such as the National Languages Board, the National Languages Fund, and the Languages Database.

"The Government believes in equality and inclusivity hence all citizens are respected and taken seriously in policy planning and implementation. As such, the Government would want to ensure that all languages spoken in Zimbabwe are treated equally by creating conditions that are conducive for their development," said Mr Madzamba.

He said the drafting of the National Languages Bill will promote mother languages' development and guarantee respect of the country's socio- cultural diversity.

"Socio- cultural diversity Is notably an overarching fundamental that undergirds social cohesion, nation-building and sustainable national development. Government recognises that language is a powerful vehicle of a people's culture and identity hence the proposed language conference should aim to promote, preserve and develop all the officially recognised languages of Zimbabwe," he said.

Mr Madzamba said lack of a national languages policy is a challenge and a hindrance to national progress.

"Indigenous languages have not been adequately promoted and developed in order to preserve them as well as safeguarding the cultures and the inherent human dignity that goes with the African people who speak them. You will note that ChiShona and IsiNdebele, as part of an array of national languages, still play second fiddle to English, in more or less the case that obtained during the colonial era."

"However, there are local indigenous languages in Zimbabwe which were previously marginalised and these include: Kalanga, Tonga, Nambya, Hwesa, Tswana, Xhosa, Barwe, Sotho, Shangani, Sign Language, Venda, Chikunda, Ndau and Chewa."

Mr Madzamba said by holding the conference, Zimbabwe will ultimately advance the achievement of the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as it relates to local languages and the achievement of the objectives of the African Union's Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, with particular reference to ‘Aspiration 5'.

The conference brings together MPs, members of the judiciary, Government departments and agencies, civic organisations, traditional leadership, African indigenous languages experts, linguists, cultural experts and the academia.

Others include the media, player in the cultural and creative Industries players and church leaders.

Source - The Herald