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Will anyone rescue the language of change from the camp of the patronage politicians? A much-publicised incident last week highlighted a trend: political and economic problems are highlighted not by those who want progress, but by those who want to justify cosy deals between government and private companies. This forces their opponents to react rather than shaping the agenda. This time, the issue was language: Lumka Oliphant, who speaks for Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, insisted on speaking Zulu on Radio 702. She was told that the station’s medium is English and so she was not interviewed. This was, of course, yet another attempt to portray a dodgy deal as a fight for freedom. Oliphant, like her much-derided equivalents in the White House, is interested in attacking her boss’s critics, not informing citizens. She insisted on speaking Zulu not because she is a fighter for language equality but because it was another way to avoid questions to which she had no answer. ...

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