Sepedi lawyer leaves court tounge-tied

Cecil Motsepe

A lawyer caused a stir when he decided to address a court in Sepedi, leaving the magistrate and other Afrikaans-speaking lawyers dumbfounded.

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 request."