South Africa: Sepedi lawyer leaves court tounge-tied

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Feb 17 18:28:34 UTC 2009

Sepedi lawyer leaves court tounge-tied

16 February 2009
Cecil Motsepe

A lawyer caused a stir when he decided to address a court in Sepedi,
leaving the magistrate and other Afrikaans-speaking lawyers
Advocate Mphafolane Koma is representing relatives of six people who
died during the 2004 explosion at Sasol's Secunda site. The inquest is
being heard by magistrate Anita du Preez in the Evander magistrate's
court in Mpumalanga. Koma, who spoke Sepedi in court on Thursday, told
Sowetan: "The magistrate has allowed lawyers representing the other
side to carry on in Afrikaans. This despite the fact that I indicated
many times that I did not understand their language."

He claims his request for the proceedings to be conducted in English
"fell on deaf ears" with Du Preez allegedly insisting that an
interpreter would be made available at a later stage. Koma, who has
complained to Justice Minister Enver Surty about the court's refusal
to use English, said settling for an interpreter would compromise his
clients.. But Du Preez said on Friday. "I dispute what Mr Koma is
saying. He never indicated to the court that he did not follow
(proceedings in Afrikaans). He only raised the matter when it was his
turn to proceed. He is not going to force me to speak English, he must


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at


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