Original Research

Communication and governance in a linguistically diverse human settlement in South Africa

Sandiso Ngcobo, Bongekile Y.C. Mvuyana
Journal of Local Government Research and Innovation | Vol 3 | a83 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jolgri.v3i0.83 | © 2022 Sandiso Ngcobo, Bongekile Y.C. Mvuyana | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 May 2022 | Published: 30 November 2022

About the author(s)

Sandiso Ngcobo, Department of Communication, Faculty of Management Sciences, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Durban, South Africa
Bongekile Y.C. Mvuyana, Department of Public Administration and Economics, Faculty of Management Sciences, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Durban, South Africa


Background: Integrated human settlement initiatives are aimed at altering the apartheid housing patterns of the old South Africa that kept people of different races and languages apart.

Aim: This article investigated how community leaders and municipal officials interact with their integrated constituencies to determine if the language(s) of communication used are unifying and are conducive for public participation in decision-making.

Setting: The study was conducted at the eThekwini region in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) in South Africa where isiZulu, an African language, is dominant in terms of the number of speakers, but English has prestige as a lingua franca.

Method: The study was qualitative in that 15 participants were interviewed on their experiences, observations and perceptions of languages of communication usage in their integrated human settlement. The settlement was used as a case study and the participants were purposefully selected.

Results: The findings indicated that isiZulu dominates as the preferred language of communication at meetings and in written documents where it is often presented alongside English. There were speakers of other languages that were not happy with the dominance of isiZulu.

Conclusion: The dominant use of isiZulu bodes well for the promotion of African languages as they have in the past not been given the official status they deserve. However, its dominance in a multilingual environment it has the potential to make other community members feel linguistically discriminated against.

Contribution: The study undertakes an interdisciplinary approach to provide a deeper understanding on the role of language in the governance of multilingual societies. It raises an awareness on the importance of finding a balance between using the dominant community language and recognising other languages to ensure full participation of all immaterial of diverse linguistic backgrounds.


communication; integrated human settlement; multilingualism; linguistically diverse community; service delivery.


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