Judge weighs in on Gigaba’s appointment as finance minister

Minister Malusi Gigaba. Pic: Puxley Makgatho
Minister Malusi Gigaba. Pic: Puxley Makgatho

Retired Judge Justice Ntsikelelo Poswa has weighed in‚ albeit briefly‚ on the eligibility of Malusi Gigaba as the finance minister with no background in finance and economics but said that was nothing new.

Poswa who was a Judge in the North Gauteng High Court Division said this was a continuation of a trend started previously by then President Thabo Mbeki‚ a trend that has also affected them in the justice and judiciary sector.

Gigaba was appointed South Africa’s Minister of Finance in a midnight cabinet reshuffle on Friday causing tremors around the country following the firing of Pravin Gordhan.

“When former President Thabo Mbeki reshuffled his cabinet he removed Dullah Omar and replaced him [Penuell] Maduna who had no background in law and who knew nothing‚” said Poswa.

“Is history not being repeated? Ask I in this case. I must hasten to say I do not see anything strange here. We have had very strange ministers of justice before‚” said Poswa.

Poswa was speaking in Durban on Friday night during the launch of English — isiZulu Legal Dictionary & Thesaurus written by Durban advocate Thulani “Cat” Phewa‚ an event organised by the Black Lawyers’ Association.

Poswa said such acts called for the strengthening of legal bodies like the BLA‚ National Democratic Lawyers and the Advocates For Transformation.

“Ministers of justice have perpetually misled the BLA. I call for the establishment and creation of a collective structure by the BLA‚ Nadel and the AFT‚” he said.

Homing in on Phewa’s book‚ Poswa asked why the government has waited 22 years to empower African languages.

He praised Phewa‚ saying his work will chart a new way of accessibility to justice and the legal sector at large.

Not recognising African languages has made the justice sector a preserve of the few‚ he said.

“Language is very important. I’m sure some of you only discovered during the Oscar Pistorius case that there can be a difficult with the interpretation of some of the Latin words‚” he said in reference to the interpretation of dolis eventualis by Judge Masipa during the Pistorius trial.

“This work by Cat will contribute more in the importance of language as it has been a huge barrier and an injustice to many‚” he said.

 This week parliament’s justice and corrections oversight committee said proficiency in at least one indigenous African language should be demonstrated before anyone can be awarded a law degree.

“We are training so many lawyers. They are all English speaking‚ but the majority of the people speak indigenous languages. It is our view that going forward no one will be able to get a law degree unless they have passed [an examination in an] indigenous language‚” committee chair Mathole Motshekga told the National Prosecution Authority briefing.

Poswa agreed.

“There have been numerous people who have been convicted because of language barrier and some acquitted for similar. I stress again‚ language is very important. It has been a total injustice when a litigant has to pay fees for an advocate‚ an attorney and an interpreter just to get justice. Our government has to ensure that language is not a barrier‚” he said

Phewa’s thesaurus is aimed at assisting law scholars‚ student interpreters at the Justice College as well as traditional courts in the rural areas.

“The writing of a dictionary may seem a small matter. But it’s very important‚” he said.

University of KwaZulu-Natal head of African Languages Prof Sihawukele Ngubane who collaborated with Phewa in the writing of the book stressed the importance of using our own language.

“For many years people have been convicted for the distortion of the language and because of the etymology of the words we use‚” he said.

Phewa’s dictionary has already been translated into isiSwati and an isiXhosa version is being prepared.

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