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Translate.org.za is a project to translate computer software into the eleven official languages of South Africa. Current languages include Xhosa, Zulu and Venda. Visit www.translate.org.za for more details.

Project Sponsors:

The Shuttleworth Foundation: www.tsf.org.za

Obsidian Systems: www.obsidian.co.za


  1. New languages
  2. University students pay off fees
  3. KDE 3.0 release with Zulu, Xhosa and Venda
  4. Zuza Software Foundation launched
  5. Shuttleworth Foundation funding

1. New Languages

The translation of Venda was started on the 25th January and translator, Fhatuwani Rambau has made good progress. So much so that Venda has been added to the latest KDE release. Work is continuing on this to make a more complete translation. The next languages to be translated start in May and are Tsonga, Tswana and Sesotho.

2. University Students Pay Off Fees

JOB is a recruitment agency linked to the financial aid department of UCT and works with students who have outstanding fees. Their task being to help needy students find work to pay off the difference between bursaries and moneys owing to the university. Work done for NPO’s is constituted in lieu of fees, although a minimal wage to pay for transport etc. is offered too. After recent negotiations ZUZA was linked up to this financial aid scheme and will subsequently be able to draw students from JOB to assist with the project. We hope to recruit at least five people for each language and trust that through JOB we’ll find the candidates who speak languages not yet translated by Translate.org.za

3. KDE 3.0 released with Zulu, Xhosa and Venda

On April 3rd 2002, the KDE Project released KDE 3.0, the third edition of the leading desktop for Linux/UNIX, governments, schools, and businesses. Zulu, Xhosa and Venda were a part of this release. For more info www.kde.org/announcements/announce-

4. Zuza Software Foundation launched

In March 2002 the Zuza Software Foundation was officially started. Zuza will be responsible for the future of the Translate.org.za project as well as Linuxlab.org.za. Zuza means ‘gift given freely’ in Nguni and will focus on opensource projects aimed at upliftment and empowerment in Africa. Zuza is currently working on proposals directed at internationalisation, business development and education. Obsidian Systems will still support these projects through infrastructure and the donation of expertise and time. Zuza is a Section 21 company which will aid in the raising of funds. The board has been chosen to reflect the diversity of the skills, background and interest areas of South Africa.

5. Shuttleworth Foundation Funding

Now that the Section 21 company registration is in place, The Shuttleworth Foundation will be financing the project and with their generous funding we will be constructing a computer lab for the project as well as hiring full time translators.

Translate.org.za is making huge headway in an area otherwise unexplored in Africa and aims to play an important role in the sharing of resources and expertise as a part of bridging the digital divide.

Lwandle Mgidlana, Xhosa translator, says  ...

“I am excited to be involved in the project of this nature in that it will make access to computers a reality for many school kids who otherwise would not be able to enter the world of computers. This will open many doors of opportunity to many children!”


  • IsiZulu is the most commonly spoken language in South Africa, followed by isiXhosa. (Stats SA)
  • Afrikaans is the third most commonly spoken language in South Africa (Stats SA)


    “Language is a basic human right. The constitutionally enshrined language rights of the people of the Western Cape and the Batho Pele (people first) service principle are therefore paramount in developing action plans. The principle of multilingualism is important in considering both rights and service delivery. We promote multilingualism in the Western Cape in the knowledge that language diversity forms part of our heritage. Up to 21 different languages, including the 11 official languages, are spoken daily in the Western Cape. This rich linguistic diversity in the Province calls for an innovative and creative approach and prevents a bland uniformity. We believe that language diversity is a resource and not a problem — it is an intellectual, cultural and economic asset.”
         Excerpts from the Western Cape Language Committee, Chairman’s Annual report

    “It should come as no surprise that all South Africans agree about the need for English as the second language, mainly because it is so obviously the key to economic empowerment. Yet for as long as the vast majority of people are not proficient in English, and without the promotion of multilingualism and the equitable treatment of all languages, democracy will remain a sham. This is so because most people would have to conduct all their important affairs, as they do at present, in a language they barely understand. An English-only, or even an English-mainly, policy necessarily condemns most people, and thus the country as a whole, to a permanent state of mediocrity, since people are unable to be spontaneous, creative and self-confident if they cannot use their first language”
         Excerpts from Dr Neville Alexander’s article in The Guardian Weekly, ‘Where English can Serve but not Empower.’


    Zulu — Thobile Mhlongo
    Xhosa — Lwandle Mgidlana
    Venda — Fhatuwani Rambau

    Lead Translator: Thobile Mhlongo Tel: +27-21-448 9265 or thobile@translate.org.za

    Project Director: Dwayne Bailey Tel: +27-21-448 9265 or Dwayne@translate.org.za

    translate-announce mailing list


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