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Oscar trial interpreters worry MPs

Parliament - A Congress of the People MP on Tuesday called on the justice department to investigate concerns about the quality of interpretation in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial.

“Yesterday (Monday) was the perfect chance to demonstrate to the whole world that ours is not a dysfunctional court system; the inability to get that right... was an opportunity lost and we really regret that,” Cope MP Juli Killian said in the National Assembly.

Oscar Pistorius is watched by June Steenkamp, right, the mother of Reeva Steenkamp, as he arrives for his trial at the high court in Pretoria. Pistorius is charged with murder with premeditation in the shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine's Day 2013. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, Pool). Credit: AP

The quality of the interpreting - from Afrikaans to English - was questioned in the High Court in Pretoria on Monday.

Killian suggested the quality of the interpretation was perhaps a wider concern.

“Our courts are dogged by numerous problems, resulting in cases taking too long to finalise,” she said.

“This was one of those high-profile cases, but how many other courts are also dogged with interpreter problems?”

Earlier on Tuesday, the justice department said it was unaware of any concerns relating to the interpreter.

“The justice department has noted media reports relating to the interpretation in Mr Oscar Pistorius's criminal proceedings that are currently under way,” said justice spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga.

“We wish to state that the performance of court officials, in particular an interpreter, is critical to proper administration of justice. However, the department cannot comment on the proceedings in view of the matter being sub judice... .”

Mhaga said the presiding officer Judge Thokozile Masipa was busy with proceedings and it was for her to deal with concerns that came from both parties involved in the matter.

On Monday, Pistorius's counsel Barry Roux SC heard witness Michelle Burger testify that the night after the shooting she was “deurmekaar”, which the interpreter translated as “confused”.

As Roux responded to the word, the judge interrupted.

“Is there a difficulty between you and the interpreter,” asked Masipa.

Burger said: “She is interpreting what I am saying. Some of the words are not what I am saying and then I am correcting in English.”

Sapa

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