‘It was the language of apartheid’ – Why people are protesting Ryanair’s Afrikaans quiz for SA passengers

Francis Akhalbey June 10, 2022
Ryanair announced South African passengers will no longer be made to take the Afrikaans language test -- Photo Credit: Michael Oldfield

Irish budget airline Ryanair has doubled down on its decision to make South Africans traveling to the UK take a test in Afrikaans to prove they are not from a different country.

The airline’s policy was criticized in South Africa as many of the country’s Black population link the Afrikaans language to the era of apartheid or White minority rule, BBC reported. The language is mostly spoken by White and mixed-race South Africans whose ancestry is linked to Dutch, German and French settlers who set foot in the country in the 17th century.

Ryanair did not disclose why it picked the Afrikaans language for the test. There are 10 other official languages in South Africa. They are Zulu, isiXhosa, Sepedi, Setswana, English, Sesotho, Xitsonga, Siswati, Tshivenda and Ndebele.

In a statement to the news outlet, Ryanair, which operates flights in Europe, said it introduced the extra language test policy because of “substantially increased cases of fraudulent South African passports being used to enter the UK.”

If UK authorities determine a passenger has entered the country with a fake passport, the airline that brought the passenger is fined $2,500. “This is why Ryanair must ensure that all passengers (especially South African citizens) travel on a valid SA passport/visa as required by UK Immigration,” Ryanair said.

But the government of Britain says it has not made the extra test mandatory. And besides not providing details as to why it picked Afrikaans over the other South African languages, Ryanair did not also disclose if passengers from other countries were made to take such tests.

Per a 2011 census, Afrikaans is the first language for around 13% of South Africans, BBC reported. Zulu is the most-spoken mother tongue in South Africa – followed by IsiXhosa and Afrikaans.

The Ryanair Afrikaans test includes questions about South Africa’s international dialing code as well as the country’s capital city and current president among others. Passengers who do not pass the test are not allowed to board the flight, and their plane ticket costs are refunded.

Dinesh Joseph, a South African citizen, told the news outlet that he was angered after he was told to undergo the test before his flight from the Canary Islands to the UK. 

“It was the language of apartheid,” Joseph said, adding that the test triggered him. “Being a person of colour, especially from South Africa, you’ve experienced a lot… of racism.”

The fatal 1976 Soweto Uprising was triggered by the apartheid government’s decision to make Afrikaans a mandatory official language in schools.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 10, 2022


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