President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to sign the South African Sign Language Bill into law on Wednesday, 19 July 2023, during a ceremony at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. This move comes after the National Assembly approved the amendment of Section 6 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 on 02 May 2023, officially recognizing South African Sign Language (SASL) as the 12th official language.
The recognition of SASL as an official language is a significant step towards promoting the rights of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. As an indigenous language, SASL holds a crucial place in South African linguistic and cultural heritage, with its distinct grammatical structures and lexicon, independent of any other language.
The new legislation aims to advance the cultural acceptance of SASL, ensure equal protection and dignity for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing, and promote inclusive equality by eliminating discrimination based on disability, as guaranteed by Section 9 of the Constitution.
This landmark initiative makes South Africa the fourth country on the African continent to recognize sign language as an official language, joining Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Uganda.
The signing ceremony is scheduled as follows:
Date: Wednesday, 19 July 2023
Time: 15h00 – 16h00 (Media to arrive at 14h00)
Venue: Media Centre, Union Buildings
This momentous occasion marks a significant stride towards a more inclusive and equitable South Africa, ensuring that the rights and dignity of persons who are deaf or hard of hearing are protected and celebrated.