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Cape Town - Delays in the payment of casual interpreters at the Western Cape High Court halted various cases this week. A source at the court, who spoke anonymously, said it was not the first time they had had this problem.

The causal interpreters had not been paid for two weeks of work.

“Before this, there was a delay with their payment, and that was for about a week, and now again the same thing. They are not being treated properly and are not striking, but do not have the funds to come to work,” said the source.

However, he said, the problem was deeper and he believed the way interpreters were treated was a national crisis. “For some time now, the tariff paid to casual interpreters has not changed. They are earning very little. They get less than R300 a day. In addition, their training has not changed over the years, and this has seen many resign.

“We are losing more people than we are able to replace. A few years ago we lost nine interpreters, after which one permanent position was advertised.” He said ideally there should be about 15 interpreters at the Western Cape High Court, but there were now only had six permanent employees, with the rest being casual workers.

Nathi Mncube, spokesperson for the Judiciary, said the interpreters in question were people who were employed as casual workers when there was a need, and for specific days or hours.

He dismissed the interpreters’ claims of non-payment. “The payments are up to date - there are no backlogs. All claims should be paid within 14 days, and these claims were processed within this prescribed period from the date they were received at the finance section,” said Mncube.

He added that the casual interpreters would insert multiple dates on their claims, but only submit claims once they had accumulated several days’ worth of work.

“The impression is now created that because the claim relates to work performed in a previous month, that is now processed late. All the claims were submitted on September 23, 2019 for processing, which involves computations and the verifying of the court attendance on the registers. The notion that the claims are in arrears is not correct. The claims were still processed on time,” said Mncube.

On Wednesday, Judge Monde Samela postponed the trial of Ameerudien Peters and Abigail Ruiters after he waited for about an hour for an interpreter. Peters and Ruiters are accused of the murder of 18-month-old Jeremiah Ruiters. The case of alleged Terrible Josters gang leader Horatio Solomons and 11 other gang members who face 71 charges, including 11 murders and dealing in drugs, was also postponed.

The case of murder accused stepfather Lwanda Sobekwa, who allegedly murdered his stepdaughter by beating her with a plank on May 15, 2017 in Driftsands, Mfuleni was also postponed by Judge Siraj Desai.

Another source who spoke to the Weekend Argus on a promise of anonymity said the postponements had impacted on the cases and the cost thereof had to be carried by the courts.

“The impact on casual interpreters is that we can’t travel if we’re not paid.

“We are not contracted and we are not permanent employees of the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ), so we stay at home because there’s no commitment from both OCJ and casual interpreters,” he said.

The source added that before recess, the casual interpreters were told that they would be contracted from October 1.

“Instead, we don’t see a contract, neither are our claims paid; now we’re waiting to see what happens on Monday.”

Mncube advised that all the claims had been captured and money should have reflected in their bank accounts by yesterday for the majority, and on Monday for two interpreters.

Weekend Argus