Basotho in South Africa
Since the arrival of Sotho peoples in Southern Africa they've settled in many parts that is now part of the Republic of South Africa. Movement of people between South Africa and Lesotho also took place even after the boundaries of Lesotho were laid down in 1869. Apart from the large Sesotho language community in South Africa the Sesotho speaking communities grew a lot due to movements after the Difaqane (Lifaqane) wars in the 19th century and migrant labour from Lesotho during the 20th century. Basotho men mainly worked on mines and at industries throughout South Africa and the numbers of these people only declined during the 1990s.
The first official governmental attempt at recording and standardising the language, Sesotho, in South Africa was with the publication of the Sotho Terminology and Orthography No. 1 in 1951. This like some other earlier publications focused on a combination of all the Sotho languages (thus also including Setswana and Sesotho sa Leboa/Northern Sotho). This publication was made possible by the combined Sotho language committee. But it was dissolved in 1957 due to new Apartheid legislation that promoted the separateness of "ethnic groups" regardless of a common "language". Through this process the three Sotho languages were established and promoted individually by the separate language boards. With the creation of the homelands in South Africa the independent Basotho area of Qwaqwa was created.
Sesotho was only acknowledged as official language in South Africa in 1994. Yet before 1994 it was, during some periods, promoted through education (from 1955 to mid 1970s) and even the broadcast media (from 1960 on radio and from 1982 on television). The change in language policy for education (from mother tongue education to instruction in Afrikaans and English) led to the Soweto uprisings in 1976.
With the post-Apartheid negotiations during the early 1990s Sesotho was proposed as an official language together with Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Sepedi, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. This was included in the new constitution for South Africa - accepted in 1996.
Apart from the Pan South African Language Board and the Department for Arts and Culture the national and provincial language boards for Sesotho promote the language. There is also a separate lexicography unit for Sesotho.
Sesotho is mainly used on SABC 2 a channel part of the South African Broadcasting Corporation's television section. Sesotho shares this channel mainly with the other two Sotho languages as well as with Afrikaans and English. About 12% of the total broadcasts of SABC 2 was in Sotho languages during 2001.
In terms of radio the station Lesedi FM is dedicated to Sesotho programming.
The magazine Bona is also one of the only regular publications in the Sesotho language.
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© J. Olivier (2009)
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