Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Translation drawn into question in Terre’Blanche trial

The work of a translator who mediated between police and a youth accused of killing right wing leader Eugene Terre’Blanche was called into question in the Ventersdorp High Court on Wednesday.

The boy’s lawyer, Zola Majavu, tried to show how information could be misinterpreted or misunderstood.

The minor and Chris Mahlangu are accused of beating Terre’Blanche to death in his North West farmhouse in April 2010.

Both have pleaded not guilty to murder. Mahlangu claims he acted in self-defence. The teenager has denied involvement in the crime.

Majavu asked Reservist Detective Constable Emmanuel Mthembu to translate phrases from Tswana to Afrikaans, as he would have done when he explained the youth’s rights to him and his mother before the teenager pointed out the crime scenes.

Mthembu struggled to do so correctly at all times. When he translated incorrectly, the court translator explained that Mthembu’s version was not verbatim but a simplified version.

Lost in translation
Majavu was questioning the accuracy of Mthembu’s translations between Lieutenant Colonel Frans Jacobs, the youth and his mother.

Mthembu said he occasionally had to ask Jacobs to clarify what he had said during the translation but he felt the family and youth had understood what was said.

Mthembu admitted that it was possible for some information to have been lost in translation. He also admitted it was the first time he had acted as a translator.

Mthembu was testifying in a trial within a trial to determine the validity of evidence given by the two accused.

Earlier on Wednesday, the minor disputed the signature he purportedly made on a statement to the police.

Majavu said his client denied the signature was his.

Assessment
However, Jacobs, who went with the teenager to point out crime scenes, said he had asked the teenager if the signature was his and he had said it was.

The teenager’s mother had also confirmed it was her fingerprint on the statement as she could not write.

Majavu asked why a probation officer had not been appointed to assess the minor within 24 hours, in accordance with the law, but only after the crime scenes were pointed out.

Sergeant Samuel Kutumela was the last witness to be called on Wednesday.

He read the minor his rights at the Klerksdorp Police Station before he was handed over to Jacobs.

He said he read the certificate containing the rights and thereafter explained it to the youth in Tswana and asked if he understood.

Clarity
“He and I were talking in Tswana. After he said he understood I asked him to sign on the document,” he said.

He said the minor’s mother could not write and therefore police had to take a thumb print as her signature.

They received a copy of the certificate.

Majavu cross-examined Kutumela on his translation of the rights and whether the minor and his mother would have been able to understand the rights which were written in English.

“The accused and his mother understood me very well,” Kutumela said.

The trial continues on Thursday. — Sapa

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Fears of violence persist a year after the murder of...

The court battle to stop coal mining in rural KwaZulu-Natal has heightened the sense of danger among environmental activists

Data shows EFF has lower negative sentiment online among voters...

The EFF has a stronger online presence than the ANC and Democratic Alliance

More top stories

Phoenix activist takes on Durban’s politically connected in November polls

Independent candidates look set to play a greater role in the metro municipality after 1 November

Libyan town clings to memory of Gaddafi, 10 years on

Rebels killed Muammar Gaddafi in his hometown of Sirte on 20 October 2011, months into the Nato-backed rebellion that ended his four-decade rule

Fishing subsidies in the W. Cape: ‘Illegal fishing is our...

Fishers claim they are forced into illegal trawling because subsidies only benefit big vessels
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×