A delegation led by Mr Carlton Mukwevho from the South African National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Mr Terrence Ball from the South African National Lexicography Units (NLUs) visited Gauteng Provincial Legislature to establish relations between the institutions as well as present work being carried out by the NLUs. The NLUs have developed a number of indigenous language dictionaries.

Mr Terrence Ball showcases some of the mono-, bi- and multilingual dictionaries the South African National Lexicography Units have developed.


UNESCO is a multinational partnership established in 1945 by 47 member countries, including South Africa. At the time of UNESCO’s establishment, Egypt was the only other African country represented. In 1956, the Apartheid government withdrew from the organisation due to the anti-apartheid stance the organisation had taken, making South Africa one of only four countries ever to withdraw the (others were the UK, Singapore and the US, which has withdrawn on more than one occasion). In 1994, the new South Africa rejoined UNESCO, establishing a National Commission in 1996.

UNESCO’s five focus areas

  1. Education
  2. Natural Science
  3. Culture
  4. Social and Human Science
  5. Communication

About the South African National Lexicography Units

The Constitution, along with national Legislation, places an obligation on the South African government – specifically the Departments of Arts and Culture, and Education – to “take practical and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of” historically diminished indigenous South African languages (Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, chap 1 s2).

The dictionaries in indigenous languages should be made available to the respective groups and schools as soon as possible.

Parliament of the Republic of South Africa ATC Report dated 24 October 2017

On this basis, Parliament established the National Lexicography Units to develop dictionaries and learning material in indigenous South African languages, in order for the State to meet its obligations.