BY Fredrick Ngugi, 9:15am March 07, 2017,

SA Official Condemned for Refusing To Conduct Interview in English

Ms. Lumka Oliphant, the spokeswoman for South African Department of Social Development. Twitter

Lumka Oliphant, a South African government official, has triggered a controversial debate after she refused to conduct a radio interview in English.

The majority of South Africans have condemned Oliphant for responding to English questions in Zulu, a local language, and further accused her of employing diversionary tactics, reports BBC.

Oliphant, a spokesperson at South Africa’s Social Development Department, was invited by a local radio station to discuss concerns that millions of South Africans could be cut off from their social grant payment next month when a government contract with the current grant provider, Cash Payment services, expires.

“People want to know, will the grants be paid?” the host of the popular radio talk show 702, Xolani Gwala, asked Oliphant.

However, Oliphant proceeded to answer in Zulu.

“Just for the benefit of all my listeners, could you please just respond in English?” Gwala insisted, but Oliphant continued to answer in Zulu, forcing the radio host to call off the interview, which only lasted a little more than a minute.

“If you don’t want to talk I’m sorry‚ I’m going to have to move on because you clearly don’t want to do this and you are determined to disrespect the medium.”

Gwala accused Oliphant of disrespecting the station, which airs all its programs in English.

A Controversial Figure

Oliphant is not new to controversy; in fact, she was recently forced to issue an apology for insulting critics who questioned her boss’s eligibility to run South Africa’s department of social development.

She has also been on the same radio station several times before and spoken English and issued numerous press conferences in English.

Still, her actions during Monday’s interview aroused a controversial debate about the elevation of English above other local languages in South Africa, with some people arguing that it is a sign of continued self-colonization:

South Africa, a rainbow nation, has 11 official languages, but English is the most commonly used in official communication. However, some locals insist that English is a colonial language.

More than two decades after Apartheid, South Africa is still struggling with issues of racism and xenophobia, with the Black majority accusing the White minority of advancing colonialism in the 21st century.

Poll Do you agree with Oliphant's act of speaking her local language rather than speaking in English??

Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: June 19, 2018

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