Sunday Standard investigations reveal that since 1991, the Customary Court of Appeal has not yet translated both criminal and civil cases from Setswana to the English version.
Both are supposed to be submitted to the High Court.
During the investigation, it turned out that some of the suspects who had appealed against the Customary Court had already completed their sentences before their appeals could be heard, while others are still in prison.
Among those still in prison and whose appeal has not been heard or translated is Kubis Morotsi, Criminal Case Number 47/06 and of Calven Malenga, just to mention two.
It also turned out that some foreign suspects were sentenced to prison terms when they appeared in court minus translators.
The Kweneng District Council is among those that have appealed to the High Court against the decision that was taken by the Customary Court of Appeal in the illegal occupation of land at Tsolamosese, near Mogoditshane, since year 2000.
Investigations revealed that some cases are being secretly given to private attorneys to translate from Setswana to English before they reach the High Court.
Speaking to Sunday Standard, the Public Relations Officer, superintendent Mmolwa Phuthego, said there are two Customary Courts of Appeal, one in Francistown, known as North Region while the Head Office in Gaborone is known as the South region.
Phuthego said in Gaborone there are about 95 appeal cases that are pending before the Customary Court of Appeal that have to reach the High Court.
He said these appeal cases include both civil and criminal cases while in Francistown there are about 35 appeal cases accumulated since 1997.
“I am very sure that among all these cases, especially in criminal cases, there is no suspect who is in prison waiting for his or her appeal to be heard by the High Court,” said Phuthego, revealing that the major contributor to the delay is the fact that there are no interpreters to translate the cases from Setswana to English.
Phuthego said there are now about 4 interpreters who are trying to speed up the cases.
“I can sure you that by the end of the year all of the cases that should be translated will be done, especially in Francistown because there, they are fewer than in Gaborone,” he said.
He added that they are working around the clock to ensure that even those that are in Gaborone should be translated as soon as possible but could not give a time frame by which the translations would be completed.
Busang Manewe, a private attorney, said Customary Courts need urgent attention to be abolished “because people are not given fair trials as the constitution allows”.