Judgment reserved in legislation translation case

2016-02-18 17:24
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Bloemfontein – Judgment was on Thursday reserved in an appeal against an Equality Court ruling that South African legislation did not have to be translated into all 11 official languages.

Language activist Cornelius Lourens told the Supreme Court of Appeal that Parliament discriminated against 10 of the country’s 11 official languages because legislation was only published in English.

Lourens, representing himself and speaking in Afrikaans, said the government should accommodate diversity. It appeared English was the "super-official language".

Judge Carole Lewis said the Constitution did not stipulate that acts had to be translated into all 11 languages.

Advocate Ismail Jamie, for Parliament, said if the Constitution allowed two official languages then it could not be discrimination. There was no obligation for Parliament to translate legislation into all the languages.

Wim Trengove, for the arts and culture minister, argued it would be a nightmare to translate all legislation into all official languages.

"In Parliament they are not English-speaking Milners trying to impose their language on everybody else,” he said, referring to British statesman and colonial administrator Alfred Milner.

“They are your ordinary South Africans who speak Zulu and other languages, but they choose English in legislation," Trengove said.

In August 2014, Lourens, an attorney from Brits, North West, took the government to the Equality Court in Cape Town in a bid to get it to publish legislation in all 11 official languages.

In September that year, the court dismissed his case.

“There is no constitutional or statutory obligation duty on any of the respondents to publish all national legislation in all official languages, nor to translate any legislation into all official languages,” Judge Bennie Griesel said in his judgment.

The respondents were National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, and the Pan SA Language Board.

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