Professor Rosemary Moeketsi began her academic career producing innovative research in the rarefied field of forensic linguistics, examining the manner in which language figures in the process of justice – from the moment of arraignment, including the manner in which court interpreters conveyed verbal and non-verbal messages in court till the final verdict and sentencing by the presiding officer.
Professor Moeketsi began her academic career as a junior lecturer in 1985. She was later awarded the D.Litt et Phil in African Languages in the sub-discipline of Forensic Linguistics. She has produced a book and several articles on the nature of discourse in criminal cases and alternative dispute resolution. Her popular short story “Guilty as Charged” is fiction inspired by her research in the South African courtroom. She has addressed numerous conferences on the unique language situation in South African courts where, by law, all 11 official languages are used. Her C2 NRF rating expired a year ago.
In an article setting out the thinking behind UNISA’s course for court interpreters, co-written with Kim Wallmach, the pair set out the history of the process of court interpreting in South Africa. In the past, court interpreters were poorly trained and thus functioned inefficiently, within a system that deliberately denied justice to the majority of those appearing in courts. The fact that their testimonies were poorly rendered was regarded with cynicism by the judicial authorities, and the court effectively became a conveyor belt for incarceration and even death.
In post-apartheid South Africa, attempts to rectify this travesty of justice are faced with huge challenges: with 11 official languages, and regional variations within some of these languages (for example, Sesotho has five variations), some 90% of court cases in the country need interpreters. This situation cries out for the need to adequately train and remunerate interpreters.
UNISA responded to this need by introducing a BA in Court Interpreting in order to produce trained interpreters. Students are expected to have competence in at least two languages before they are accepted into the course. They are trained in principles of interpreting (three modules), in court interpreting (three modules), and translation and editing, among others. However, the situation of a distance-learning university brings other challenges, since training in interpreting by its nature requires face-to face encounters – some of these challenges are overcome by the use of audio tapes during instruction as well as in students’ assignments.
Training interpreters to discern nuances in tone, cultural references, and a string of other relevant aspects multiplies the challenges faced by the course leaders. Suffice to say that Professor Moeketsi and her colleagues have produced a literature that will in future address many of the challenges in this field.
Professor Moeketsi has since shifted her focus to the development of academic culture at tertiary level, and was appointed as the Executive Dean of the College of Human Sciences at UNISA. The college is the second largest of seven. It employs 650 personnel and enrolls about 55000 students. The College of Human Sciences has consistently produced, on average, 50% of the university’s research output and has the most research Masters and Doctoral students. Here Professor Moeketsi has devised the Scholars Development Plan, (SDP) a programme bent on empowering and enabling others. The SDP focuses on recruiting, growing and developing young academics and thus ensuring a new, bold and vibrant calibre of intellectuals that will take the university into a bright future. She has also introduced “Africa Speaks”, a college lecture series with three main objectives, i.e. to allow Africa to tell her own story; secondly to emphasise the worth of the social and human sciences; and thirdly to expose emerging academics to new role models, accomplished African scholars from the African continent and the diaspora.
As Executive Dean of The College of Human Sciences, Professor Moeketsi’s passion is also in the field of Learning and Learner Support where her focus is on curbing student drop-out and encouraging student retention. She is a strong proponent of meaningful reward systems for personnel and also approaches community engagement mainly in support of others’ ongoing projects.
Prof Rosemary Moeketsi will oversee two portfolios in the NIHSS: 1. the Establishment of an Innovation Forum, and 2. Traditions of Popular Education, Workplace and Distance Education
Rosemary Moeketsi and Kim Wallmach, Forensic Linguistics: “From sphaza to makoya!: A BA degree for court interpreters in South Africa. The International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law 2005, Vol 12 (1): 77-108.
Philip Higgs and Rosemary Moeketsi (2010) : “An African perspective on academic development – The University of South Africa’s College of Human Sciences, Scholars Development Plan”. Volume 9, Comparative Education, Teacher Training, Education Policy, Social Inclusion, History of Education.
Moeketsi RMH and T Mgutshini (forth-coming 2013) : “Recruitment without a promise of retention: A comparative time review of recruitment and retention at a university of South Africa”
Moeketsi Rosemary, Philip Higgs and Tony Mays (forth-coming 2013): “Nurturing academic leadership: A case study”