Statutes Must be in Multiple Languages

//Statutes Must be in Multiple Languages

Last month the Supreme Court of Appeal held in Lourens v Speaker of the National Assembly of Parliament (20827/2014) [2016] ZASCA 11 (10 March 2016) that Statutes do not need to be translated into all 11 official languages. However, it added that Parliament has at times breached its own rules by publishing only in English, and this must be remedied.

Lourens argued that failure to translate statutes into all the languages amounts to discrimination under the Equality Act 4 of 2000. While Lourens’ appeal failed, the court nevertheless confirmed that one language is not enough. The Constitution expressly requires government at national and provincial level to act in a minimum of two of the official languages. Section 6(3)(a) provides that government may use any particular official languages “taking into account usage, practicality, expense, regional circumstances and the balance of the needs and preferences of the population as a whole or in the province concerned.”

One language is not enough

The Supreme Court added that it is possible that Government may now even have the duty to publish statutes in three official languages. This may be implied under s4 of the Use of Official Languages Act 12 of 2012. We can help translate statues into other languages (or draft them in multiple languages) without the meaning being lost.

Many companies ask us how many languages their documents (like customer contracts, terms and policies) need to be in. We recommend that you first draft a legal document in plain English (or convert an existing English document into plain English) and then translate it into another language.


If you are interested, please complete the form on the right or enquire now. We will contact you to find out more about your requirements and give you a quote.

By |2016-07-07T10:17:00+02:00April 8th, 2016|Categories: Plain Language|