Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Charlize Theron’s comments spark controversy in South Africa

Oscar-winning actor Charlize Theron said Afrikaans, a language developed by Dutch settlers, was dying.

The 47-year-old actor revealed on a US podcast, “Smartless,” that 44 individuals still speak the language.

On Thursday, South Africans expressed indignation or support on Twitter. “Wow, what a terrible insult to millions of South Africans of all ages and races,” said @Juleanor.

“Thank you, Charlize Theron—that racist language is dying,” @SaboSizwe said. South Africa’s almost 60 million people speak Afrikaans, one of 11 official languages.

Afrikaans laws oppressed black individuals under apartheid, and the language remains controversial today.

A lawmaker from the radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party tweeted sympathy for Theron’s statements, but the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus), a minor rightwing Afrikaner party, said she was mistaken.

“She’s not up-to-date on her home country,” it said. The Hollywood celebrity was born in Benoni, a suburb of Johannesburg, and migrated to the U.S. about 30 years ago.

She didn’t speak English until she was 19, since “nobody” in her Afrikaans-dominated neighbourhood did.

Mid-17th-century Dutch settlers brought Afrikaans to South Africa. Its long history in South Africa has spurred discussion over whether it’s indigenous or imported.

It’s the third most spoken language in South Africa, after Zulu and Xhosa.

In 2020, a court ruled against the decision of the University of South Africa to stop offering Afrikaans classes. 

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