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- S V Kruse 2018 (2) SACR 644 (WCC)

Mr Kruse, the accused, is deaf and mute (Afrikaans: “doofstom”). He was convicted in the Wynberg regional court in the Cape Peninsula (“the trial court”) of the murder of the late Nashief Davids which took place at Eastridge in Mitchells Plain. The accused was 62 years old at the time of his trial.

The accused was legally represented throughout his trial. His defence was that he was acting in private defence (Afrikaans: “noodweer”). The accused was subsequently sentenced to 15 years’ incarceration.

On appeal by the accused against both his conviction and sentence before the High Court in Cape Town (“the court of appeal”), the question was whether or not the accused was afforded a fair trial.

It appeared that the accused was not born deaf and mute, but started experiencing hearing loss around Gr 5 and gradually lost his hearing and speech abilities. He can, however, read and write.

While in Gr 7 he lost his hearing completely whereupon he was sent to the De la Bat School for the deaf in Worcester in the Western Cape Province, but he only spent six months there. He had never had any formal training in sign language (Afrikaans: “gebaretaal/tekentaal”).

A sign language interpreter was duly sourced, but when the trial was set to commence, the accused, through this interpreter informed the trial court that he did not understand sign language well and could not follow proceedings. Accordingly, the accused requested that an interpreter by the name of Mr Anthony Salie from the De la Bat School supra, and/or the accused’s son, assist as interpreters. The trial court refused both these requests.

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[This is an extract of the discussion of this court case that is published in Servamus: October 2020. If you are interested in reading the rest of the discussion, contact Servamus’s offices by sending an e-mail to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phoning (012) 345 4660. Ed.]

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