Mhambi has been redeployed.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

No Afrikaans please, we don't discriminate

Now here's an interesting case reported by the SA Times, the South African london newspaper. Bear in mind that this report comes at a time when the press is up in arms that the British tax payers is paying millions in translating information for public services. But Mhambi hazards a guess that nothing is spent on translating anything into Afrikaans, (or Zulu and Sotho for that matter).

Two South African companies offering accommodation to “young South Africans” have been told to change their websites as they are discriminatory.

Many South Africans would like to believe that they have left the legacy of apartheid and racism behind them – so much so that when they are confronted with allegations of racism, it comes as a bit of a shock, and more so when it is in the realm of business.

Two such companies are Ultimate Housing and Homes Africa, both of which offer housing to South Africans.

While both claim that they do not discriminate on the grounds of race against anyone seeking their services, the Commission for Racial Equality has found their websites to be discriminatory and, following investigations, has requested that they make certain amendments to their sites.

Ultimate Housing’s website ( has been found to be discriminatory because, firstly, it offers it’s services to South Africans: “young independent South Africans”. Secondly, their website is in two languages, English and Afrikaans.

Quoting section 29 of the Race Relations Act (amended 2000), Agnes Namoh, who works within the legal services department of the Commission for Racial Equality, said “anything that you publish or cause to be published – that means that you are either an advertiser or a publisher – which indicates an intention to discriminate, is unlawful”. This she says indirect discrimination.

“You can’t advertise solely for a section of the population,” she said. “An advert should be for everyone. Racial discrimination includes race, but it also includes nationality and ethnic origin.”

Namoh explained the fact that a section of the website is in Afrikaans relates to the first complaint that the website is targeted at South Africans.

Quoting section 11A of the act, Namoh said: “English is the spoken language – when you advertise in another language it is indirect discrimination, because the majority of the people who can understand what you are saying have to be Afrikaans. There is no reason for it unless you have the intention to discriminate.”

Speaking from the perspective of a non-South African person, she said that should you go on to the website, the first thing you would read was that Ultimate Housing offers services to South Africans, giving the impression that it excludes all others. The fact that the website is translated into Afrikaans narrows the field even further.

Having parts of your business website in Afrikaans is not illegal as such, as long as you can justify your need for doing so.

“The law states that you might be allowed to advertise in another language if there is justification for it – it is proportionate and it is to achieve a legitimate aim,” she said. Namoh explains that in Ultimate Housing’s case, their Afrikaans section cannot be justified because it would reasonably be expected that any Afrikaans person who comes to the UK to study or work would be expected to have a good understanding of English. Danie Engelbrecht, co-owner of Ultimate Housing, is adamant that there was never an intention to discriminate. He said that, while most of the people he houses are South Africans, he has also provided accommoation to Australians, Poles, New Zealanders and Americans.

“We have quite a few different people so there really is no motivation for us to be racially unequal,” he said. “I don’t think that we exclude anybody anywhere – we’re just saying who our main target market is. There are loads of advertisers all over the UK that would advertise for a certain group of people. Think of women’s only car insurance; isn’t that discrimination against all men.”

Engelbrecht does not see that there is a problem in having a direct translation of his website into Afrikaans and does not feel that other nationalities would feel excluded through his advertising.

“Nowhere in any of our advertisements does it say ‘South Africans only’. “At the end of the day we can’t really get any expert advice as to what to do, so we may change a few things on the website. I’m not here to be difficult – I just think it’s unfair towards South Africans if they can’t say their main target market is South Africans.” For now, Engelbrecht is waiting to see what the CRE’s next step is.

The issue of language may not be as easy to resolve for other companies. Homes Africa, for example, have an entirely Afrikaans website and has also been investigated by the CRE. Owner of the company, Harry Gardener, has not taken the matter as seriously.

“Apparently we are discriminating against people who are not Afrikaans speaking, mainly because our website is in Afrikaans and our slogan is for young South Africans, which they recon is discriminatory as well.”

Homes Africa, like Ultimate Housing, received a letter from the CRE to change the website or face further action.

“Until such time as I hear from their attorneys, I’m not going to take any further action,” said Gardener. “If they want to make a legal matter out of it then it’s up to them ... I believe it’s absolutely stupid and horrendous and they are actually discriminating against South Africans being in London. I see it as totally bogus.”

Gardener does not believe he has done anything wrong.

“I’m not advertising in public – yes it’s a website, which I suppose is advertising, but it’s the world wide web. As far as I’m concerned I’m allowed to put up a website in Russian for all I care – are you going to put a ban on all websites in the UK that are in a foreign language?”

Gardener said that he has subsequently put a disclaimer on his website for anyone who has difficulty understanding the website to contact him in person. He said that Homes Africa do not exclude non-South Africans and that his services are offered to other nationalities.

Both Ultimate Housing and Homes Africa believe that they are justified in having Afrikaans websites because they are reacting to what their current tenants want. “It would be aimed at mostly South Africans because that’s what my people [tenants] demand, that’s what they ask for. The majority of the people living in my houses are mainly Afrikaans ... if a UK guy feels comfortable living with a lot of Afrikaans people who he cannot understand most of the time, then fine.”

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1 comment:

South African said...

I take offence at the fact that there are taxis driving past me every day with advertisements in african languages because it indicates an intent to discriminate.

If somebody wants to advertise OMO then I demand to see it in English, because advertising in any other language is discrimination against me.

The government is also not allowed to use african words in their advertisements because it discriminates against me and indicates that the communication is only for black south africans.

YAWN!!! I'm really tired of hearing bullshit like this from bodies such as the Commission for Utter Stupidity.

People like this have nothing better to do than seek out things of this nature to make a fuss about? And they get paid highly to do it?

Where do I sign up for that job?

If the principle holds true that you cannot provide advertisements in Afrikaans because it is indicative of an intent to discriminate, even though the site is also available in English, then the government is not allowed to use african words in its advertisements (batho pele comes to mind).

Equal rights? Not while the idiots at the CRE have anything to say about it...