South Africa: isiZulu finds legal favour

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Dec 16 16:32:54 UTC 2008

isiZulu finds legal favour

A Scottburgh magistrate who insisted on Wednesday on conducting
proceedings into the alleged murder of Austrian footballer Peter
Burgstaller in isiZulu would be commended by those who were proud of
the language, Durban's chief magistrate, Thamsanqa Mabaso, said on
Wednesday. He was reacting to reports that magistrate Themba Ndlovu
had in at least five cases before him addressed and questioned each of
the accused in isiZulu. According to Sapa, an interpreter was in
court, but did not interpret the proceedings.

Reporters were in court to cover the brief appearance of two brothers,
accused of the murder of Burgstaller at Selborne Golf Estate on the
KwaZulu-Natal South Coast in November last year.  The killing drew
international publicity as it occurred at the time of the preliminary
draw of the Fifa World Cup in Durban. After reporters raised concerns
about the language issue, the magistrate, in an open court, said he
would not apologise because isiZulu was an official language.

Mabaso said the issue had been debated by magistrates and judges for
several years. While the Magistrate's Act deemed English and Afrikaans
as the official "court" languages, the constitution named 11 official
languages and it also stated that indigenous languages must be
promoted and protected. "It is a big problem and not an easy one," he
said. "I attended a seminar of judges where one judge president said
he conducted proceedings in isiXhosa if the accused, the witness and
the attorneys involved were all isiXhosa-speaking.

"Our judge president took a different view because of problems
encountered if the case goes on appeal or review to the high court.

The tapes will have to be transcribed and translated. It is just not
practical and could clog up the court rolls even more," he said.

Asked why, if magistrates and judges felt strongly about the issue,
they had not challenged the act in the Constitutional Court, Mabaso
said: "I think they are just conditioned to the use of English and

He said the law only dictated that parties to litigation had to
understand proceedings, so interpretation was not necessary for
members of the public and the media.

Matthew Mfundisi, deputy director of the secretariat of the
magistrate's commission, said it was an issue which needed further
investigation and debate.

The case against Thokozisi Msani, 25, and his brother, Simo Msani, 21,
was postponed until Thursday because the prosecutor did not have the
docket at court.

It is believed that the matter will soon be set down for trial in the
high court.

N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list