Interpreters' absence puts trials on hold

Date: 08 Jun 2007
Accused people who want their trials conducted in languages other than English and Afrikaans may have to stay behind bars until the end of the public service strike. Without qualified people to relay court proceedings to the accused in their mother tongue, people are being remanded in custody longer because of the unavailability of interpreters and stenographers, who are on strike. While striking court staffers protested over a wage increase outside the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court yesterday, magistrates were postponing cases inside. The accused were being told to return to the holding cells because their cases were being postponed as a result of the unavailability of a stenographer and an interpreter. Many attorneys have not been able to proceed with their cases and trials because of the strike. Yesterday was supposed to have been Cyril Mpanza's bail application, and his attorney, Renier Spies, was at the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court to represent him. Mpanza was arrested two weeks ago in connection with the shooting at the Bree Street taxi rank, where one person was killed and several were injured. The 28-year-old taxi driver has been charged with attempted murder. Like many others before him, Mpanza did not get to apply for bail and the matter was postponed to June 18. Spies told the court that his client did not speak or understand English and requested whether someone, could explain to Mpanza that his case had been postponed. A court interpreter managed to let Mpanza know that he would have to remain in custody because there was no isiZulu interpreter available. Spies is, however, concerned about the present situation. "The greatest irony is that although courts cannot function in adherence to the law and the constitution, the police still arrest people," he said. By Botho Molosankew The Star 08/06/07 e2