Durban - An eThekwini councillor has called on council speaker, Lekgoa Mapena, to arrange for Zulu lessons for English speaking councillors.
This in the wake of mayor Zandile Gumede saying Zulu-speaking councillors should be able to express their views in meetings without it having to be translated into English.
But parties have warned that Zulu-speaking councillors’ expressing their views without stopping for interpretation could infringe on the rights of their English-speaking counterparts, as important information could be left out.
Democratic Liberal Congress leader Patrick Pillay said the policy has never changed.
Pillay also said non-Zulu-speaking councillors should learn to speak the language.
“I requested to have lessons from the speaker a while ago, but to date the council has not arranged lessons.
“I hope it will be implemented by the new speaker, so that we can learn,” he said, adding that he planned making another request to Mapena.
However, Pillay said if councillors could express their views without being interrupted for interpretations, that would infringe on the rights of councillors in terms of understanding the debate.
“Interpretation is important and necessary, so it must be followed accordingly,” he said.
According to reports, Gumede asked Mapena at the first Exco meeting to make sure isiZulu was encouraged.
“I feel really good when I use it. Even in this Exco… it must happen officially, across the board, in all committees. For us, I don’t think it must get to a point where councillors request interpretations in committees, it must be a norm,” she was quoted as saying in The Mercury.
The city’s language policy already provides for English and Zulu as “working languages” that could be used in any debate and other proceedings of the council and its committees”.
However, it also states that provision should be made for interpreting services into either of the “working languages”.
Yesterday, parties confirmed that there was an interpretation service for councillors at the committee meetings, in line with the language policy.
The Minority Front’s Jonathan Annipen said he understood Gumede to have sought to promote heritage and culture. “We must not read too much into it. I don’t think the mayor is so vulnerable” to speak in English, Annipen said.
However, he agreed that “important information will be sifted” should councillors express their views in Zulu without being stopped for interpretation.