Post-apartheid South Africa is emerging politically and economically as a kind of go-between — a relatively poor link to the richer nations of the West (or North, or First World — however one formulates them), and a relatively rich link to the poorer nations of Africa. As such, there are at least two major forces operating on it: forces pushing it to integrate as a player in a global capitalist order, and forces driving it to lead a specifically African Renaissance. These forces are not new, exactly; rather, they are exemplary of the problems of all newly independent African nations caught between the rock of global power and the hard place of national autonomy. In almost all cases, the economic and political forces are reflected culturally by forces affecting languages, forces that, on the one hand, draw African nations and individual Africans to adopt ‘international’ languages as their official language, and forces that, on the other hand, draw African nations and individual Africans to promote and preserve indigenous languages. In the latter category, no one has more eloquently and passionately set out a case for using indigenous languages as the tool for cultural assertion and ultimate liberation than the Gikuyu Kenyan novelist, Ngugi wa Thiong’o.1
Lewis, Simon, If the Zoot Fits, Wear It: The Democratic Potential of Demotic Language in Twenty-First Century South Africa, Kunapipi, 24(1), 2002.