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Language use in SA courts is a four-letter word

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Language use in SA courts is a four-letter word

Senzo Meyiwa trial casts spotlight on policy that needs to foster multilingual rather than monolingual approach

Zakeera Docrat and Russell H. Kaschula

The murder of football player Senzo Meyiwa in 2014 and its protracted and controversial (https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2022-04-19-who-killed-senzo-meyiwa-as-court-case-unfolds-docuseries-reveals-8-years-of-inconsistent-storytelling-and-inept-policing/) police investigation (https://mg.co.za/news/2022-06-03-senzo-meyiwa-trial-more-police-blunders-exposed/) involving high-profile figures in the South African music industry continues to make headlines. Five men are on trial for allegedly murdering the national team captain and goalkeeper.

Recent events (https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2022-06-02-police-witness-gets-interpreter-in-meyiwa-trial/) in the criminal trial have shone the spotlight on the use of language from a perspective of legal practitioners, judicial officers, police officers and courtroom interpretation.

The advocate for the accused and a state witness were seen to be struggling with the language in court. This was no fault of their own, but due to a restrictive policy that favours English as the main language in court. In one instance the judge halted proceedings and urged a state witness, forensic detective Sgt Thabo Mosia, to ask for a Sesotho language interpreter, which he agreed to. The only interpretation in court had been in isiZulu...

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