Many South Africans have suspected a belated April Fool's joke.

Irish low-cost airline Ryan-Air has reportedly started giving passengers with South African passports a 15-question test about their home country.

Only those who answer all the questions correctly are allowed on board.

Claudia Bröll

Political correspondent for Africa based in Cape Town.

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For example, questions are asked about the capital, the highest mountain, the name of the President and the country code.

Someone at the airline apparently had this glorious idea to check travelers for their citizenship and expose those with fake South African passports.

Apart from the highly questionable validity, the test causes bewilderment for another reason.

It is written exclusively in Afrikaans, one of South Africa's eleven national languages, which developed from the language of the first Dutch settlers.

But not every South African speaks Afrikaans.

Some even dislike the language, which they associate with the former apartheid regime and the oppression of black people.

Unforgotten is the Soweto uprising in 1974, when tens of thousands of black schoolchildren took to the streets to protest after the then white minority government introduced Afrikaans as the mandatory language of instruction.

White police used brutal force to put down the uprising.

In South Africa today it would be unthinkable to write an official form in Afrikaans only.

In addition to English, students can also choose Xhosa or Zulu as an additional language, depending on the part of the country, and do not learn Afrikaans at all.

At Afrikaans-speaking educational institutions such as the University of Stellenbosch, a number of lectures are also held in English so as not to exclude students.

If you fail, you stay on the ground

However, as several South African passengers reported, the staff at the Ryan Air check-in desks showed no mercy.

No Afrikaans, no boarding pass.

According to their own statements, some passengers were actually not allowed to fly because they did not understand the test or could not answer questions.

Conversely, the airline has to ask itself a few questions, for example why it is asking South Africans for such a test.

The reports are now making waves.

The South African Foreign Ministry immediately announced that it would take care of the matter.

British and Irish diplomats in South Africa were quick to stress that these were not government entry requirements.

Ryan Air in turn referred to the online news service News24 to the allegedly increased number of passengers traveling with forged South African passports.

A language test is one of the “least intrusive” testing methods, and Afrikaans is a widely spoken national language.

The Afrikaans issue is dividing

Strange, absurd, peppered with prejudices - these were the reactions in South Africa.

Even the head of the Afrikaans Language Board, which works to protect and spread Afrikaans, considers the method to be unfortunate: there is a tireless effort to show that Afrikaans is a "friendly language", he told the Rapport newspaper.

And now this test has divided people again on this subject.

Only 20 million out of 60 million South Africans speak or understand Afrikaans.

Many also took the news with humor.

On the radio, the calls piled up with ideas on how to better find out if someone was South African.

One listener suggested passengers should sing the national anthem at the airport.

It contains stanzas in the most widely spoken languages, Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English, and is sung fervently at every national sporting event.

"Then it is guaranteed that you are a South African."

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