12/11/03 Potchefstroom. Eugene Terreblanche in court. He pleaded guilty to 5 counts of terrorism for which he received a suspended sentence.Pic: Debbie Yazbek

A woman police constable’s ability to read and explain rights to two people arrested for killing rightwing leader Eugene Terre'Blanche came under fire on Thursday.

Constable Kedibone Sophie Mokwele was asked by a defence lawyer in the High Court sitting in Ventersdorp to read a phrase written in English and explain it Setswana.

She was unable to do so, prompting defence lawyer Kgomotso Tlouane to say: “Madam, you are pathetic.”

Tlouane is acting for Chris Mahlangu who, along with a minor, is accused of beating Terre'Blanche to death in his farmhouse outside Ventersdorp on April 3, 2010.

Both have pleaded not guilty to murder, housebreaking, and robbery with aggravating circumstances. Mahlangu claims he acted in self defence. The teenager has denied involvement in the crime.

In a trial within a trial on Thursday on the admissibility of evidence, the constable said she read the accused their rights after their arrest, first in English and then explained the contents in Setswana.

It was at this point that Tlouane asked her to read a phrase from the notice of rights. She was unable to do so.

“How do you explain the rights to a person when you yourself do not understand it?” he asked her.

He contended she had not seen the document before. Earlier, Mokwele maintained she had read and explained the rights to Mahlangu and the minor.

“I asked (Mahlangu) if he understood. He indicated that he understood and then signed,” she said.

Zola Majavu, for the minor, cross-examined Mokwele after Tlouane and questioned her proficiency in English. She admitted she would struggle to continue her conversation with Majavu without the court interpreter. – Sapa