Ryanair criticized as racist for showing South Africans in Afrikaans

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Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, faces accusations of racism for demanding that South African customers prove their citizenship by taking a written test in Afrikaans, a derivation of the Dutch language developed by European colonists.

Officials at the Dublin-based airline say they use the test to avoid carrying passengers to the UK on fake passports. But some South Africans have criticized the policy as racist, saying that the nation officially recognizes 11 languages ​​and that many in the country do not speak Afrikaans. The British High Commission in South Africa twitret Friday that the test “is not a requirement of the British government.”

The test policy has created anger among travelers after reports circulated online. South African language authorities have also condemned the questionnaire.

Ryanair says that the African test helps the company to protect itself against the transport of people who use fake passports. The airline does not fly to South Africa. The guidelines apply to South African citizens traveling within Europe.

“The South African government has already warned passengers (and airlines) about the risk of syndicates selling fake SA passports, which has significantly increased the number of cases of fake South African passports entering the UK,” the low-cost airline said in an email on Wednesday. . . “To minimize the risk of using fake passports, Ryanair requires passengers with a South African passport to complete a simple Afrikaans questionnaire.”

If passengers are unable to complete it, they will not be allowed to travel and a refund will be issued, the statement said.

Ryanair said airlines that allow passengers to fly with fake visas are subject to a fine of about $ 2,500 per offender. “This is why Ryanair must ensure that all passengers (especially South African citizens) travel with a valid SA passport / visa required by UK Immigration,” the statement said.

Andries W. Coetzee, professor of linguistics and director of the African Studies Center at the University of Michigan, said that Afrikaans has strong ties to South Africa’s colonial history and an apartheid regime that institutionalized white supremacy.

Coetzee said the majority of South Africans do not speak Afrikaans, “so it makes absolutely no sense to use it as a measure of whether you are South African or not.” In the 2011 census data shared by Statistics South Africa, 13.5 percent of the population said that Afrikaans was their first language, after IsiZulu (22.7 percent) and IsiXhosa (16 percent) in that year’s data.

In 1925, the South African government made Afrikaans an official language, Coetzee said, and it largely became the language of politics, a status that was strengthened after apartheid became the “official political system in the country” in 1948. While language was at one time necessary in schools, he said, the majority of students who take the language now are those who speak it at home or those of European descent who speak English at home.

“If you are a black citizen of South Africa who came of age and went to school after 1994, the chances are high that you do not know Afrikaans because you do not need to know Afrikaans,” said Coetzee. He called Ryanair’s policies “colonial, discriminatory and simply unjustified”.

Coetzee noted that there are two socio-ethnic varieties of Afrikaans and that about half of the Afrikaans-speaking population is non-white.

“It would be inaccurate to say that only white people speak the language,” he said.But What would be correct is to say that 80 percent of the population does not speak Afrikaans, and that 80 percent are basically all non-white. “

Anne-Maria Makhulu, associate professor of cultural anthropology and African and African American studies at Duke University, said: “I believe that there is a language policy here, and that that language policy is insensitive to what underlies it, which is racial policy. “

Makhulu added that the fact that Zulu is more widespread in the country also highlights the implications of the test. “There is a latent assumption there about what represents South African authenticity,” she said.