South African Journal of African Languages

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Implementing constitutional language provisions through the Indigenous Language Publishing Programme

Jana Möller, Beth le Roux


The trade publishing sector in South Africa produces books primarily in English and Afrikaans, which is not representative of the spread of languages spoken in the country. In particular, there are very few books published for general readers in the local African languages. The Indigenous Language Publishing Programme (ILPP) is a government-sponsored initiative that aims to improve this situation. This article assesses the impact and sustainability of the ILPP as an attempt to represent the official languages more equally in the publishing industry. Our study, based on an analysis of documents and interviews, found that the national language and book policies have not been well implemented, which is a failure in terms of reaching constitutional ideals. Moreover, despite the ILPP being an attempt at creating language equality, the initiative seems not to be sustainable because it is reliant on external funding. The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) is not willing to fund such a project on an ongoing basis, which puts the programme’s longevity at risk. As a result, the ILPP’s influence remains limited. The minority languages remain under-represented and this raises questions about whether there is in fact a viable market for books in all of the South African languages.
AJOL African Journals Online