Since 1996, courts have made translation available to anyone who needs it. Why is this not enough to really ensure people are fairly represented? How can it still place defendants at a disadvantage?
All accused persons have a right to a fair trial and to be legally represented. But can a legal representative defend the accused fully when they communicate through an interpreter? No.
Are there countries where legal language policies are inclusive and work well? Who can we look to?
We could emulate the Canadian model, with judicial officers and legal practitioners being fully bilingual.
Although South Africa has 11 official languages as opposed to Canada's two, there is no reason why there can't be language policies for each province given that there are two languages spoken by the majority in each province.
Academics are often theory driven, but was there a practical moment or discovery that really brought home the injustice and shortcomings of a legal system that can't accommodate people's lived, language-based realities?
How do we enable access to justice for the majority of our people who are not English mother tongue speakers?
The case of State v Sikhafungana (2012) really brought home to me how difficult it can be for South Africans to navigate our legal system.
It saw a deaf complainant needing to testify about being sexually assaulted, but being at a severe disadvantage because she couldn't understand English or communicate using South African sign language. It was heartbreaking to see how there were so many barriers to justice for her.
How do you think we can develop and nurture a love for, and practical engagement with all of our country's languages in South Africa?
It starts in the home! Children need to be encouraged from an early age to learn another language or languages. Mother-tongue speakers also need to value the power and status of their language - by doing this, others will be encouraged to learn those languages too.