Ryanair announced it will no longer require its South African passengers to take a controversial Afrikaans language test to prove they’re not from a different country, BBC reported. The Irish budget airline’s initial decision to conduct the test in Afrikaans received backlash in South Africa as many of the country’s Black population link the language to the era of apartheid or White minority rule.
The airline, which operates flights in Europe, has now made a U-turn as the company’s head Michael O’Leary said the Afrikaans language test “doesn’t make any sense.” The language is mostly spoken by White and mixed-race South Africans whose ancestry is linked to Dutch, German, and French settlers who set foot in the country in the 17th century.
There are 10 other official languages in South Africa. They are Zulu, isiXhosa, Sepedi, Setswana, English, Sesotho, Xitsonga, Siswati, Tshivenda and Ndebele. Ryanair did not disclose why it picked the Afrikaans language for the test.
The controversial test included questions about South Africa’s international dialing code as well as the country’s capital city and current president among others. Passengers who did not pass the test were not allowed to board the flight and had their plane ticket costs refunded.
The Irish budget airline initially said it had introduced the extra language test policy because of “substantially increased cases of fraudulent South African passports being used to enter the UK.”
If UK authorities determine a passenger has entered the country with a fake passport, the airline that brought the passenger is fined $2,500. “This is why Ryanair must ensure that all passengers (especially South African citizens) travel on a valid SA passport/visa as required by UK Immigration,” Ryanair initially said.
But the government of Britain says it has not made the extra test mandatory.
“Our team issued a test in Afrikaans of 12 simple questions,” O’Leary told reporters. “They have no difficulty completing that. But we didn’t think it was appropriate either. So we have ended the Afrikaans test, because it doesn’t make any sense.”
The fatal 1976 Soweto Uprising was triggered by the apartheid government’s decision to make Afrikaans a mandatory official language in schools.