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Lourens v Premier of the Free State Province and Another (566/2016) [2017] ZASCA 60

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Lourens v Premier of the Free State Province and Another (566/2016) [2017] ZASCA 60

26th May 2017

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This is an appeal against the dismissal of the appellant’s application for an order that the first respondent, the Premier of the Free State Province (the Premier), be held in contempt of an order issued by the court a quo on 7 November 2013 (the order); that he be imprisoned for 90 days; and that he pay costs on an attorney and client scale.

The matter arises from the following facts. In 2013 the appellant applied to the court a quo for a declaratory order that the Premier failed to comply with s 6(4) of the Constitution, read with item 21(1) of Schedule 6 thereto,[1] by failing to regulate and monitor, through legislative and other measures, and within a reasonable time, the use of official languages in the Free State Province (the Province). The appellant also sought an order that within nine months of the grant of the declaratory order, the Premier be directed to put in place and finalise legislative and other measures regulating the Free State Provincial Administration’s use of official languages in legislation and policy documents. Subsequently the parties agreed to the order, the  relevant part of which reads:

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‘First Respondent shall, as far as it is within his authority and powers, give effect to the provisions of section 6(4) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, read with item 21(1) of Schedule 6 to the Constitution, by putting in place legislative and other measures to regulate and monitor the use of official languages by the Free State Provincial Administration on or before 31 March 2014.’[2] (My translation)

On the same day that the order was granted, the Premier wrote to the Member of the Executive Council for Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation (the MEC), responsible for language matters in the Province. He requested the MEC to ensure that his department approved a language policy and language bill; that those documents were submitted timeously to the executive council; and that they were tabled before the Free State Legislature (the Legislature) on or before 31 March 2014. This was done. On 26 March 2014 the executive council approved the Free State Provincial Government Language Policy (the Language Policy) for implementation in 2014/2015 and directed that the Use of the Free State Official Languages Bill, 2014 (the Language Bill) be tabled before the Legislature. The MEC wrote to the speaker of the Legislature on 26 March 2014 and asked her to table the Language Bill or refer it to a committee, whichever process was quickest. On 28 March 2014 the Language Bill was published in the Provincial Gazette, and was thus in the domain of the Legislature to be dealt with according to its rules and orders.

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