An interpreter who handled President Cyril Ramaphosa speech during the state funeral of the late John Magufuli at Jamhuri Stadium in Dodoma, Matungwa Lwamwasha has admitted to have distorted the translation of what was being said by South Africa’s head of state.
Lwamasha said, however, after the error occurred that he issued a statement immediately due to the misinterpretation he had given.
Speaking today Lwamasha said the source of the problem was due to the lack of audio equipment as well as the lack of a speaker next to him, so he was forced to listen to the sound on the field which was sometimes cut off.
He said after the incident he received several phone calls and text messages with many people questioning him and telling him how he had misled the public.
“I was shocked to see various pictures that were photo shopped depicting an interpreter holding books and making jokes online about me,” said Lwamasha.
He says the incident happened as part of the interpreting challenges but many people do not realize the sensitivity of the challenges that he faced.
President Ramaphosa in part of his speech said, “I felt honored because President Magufuli was not a great traveler, he didn’t like to travel very much, he preferred to stay here at home.”
His translation was far from what the president said: “Nilijisikia kuheshimiwa kuheshimiwa sana kwa sababu Mheshimiwa Magufuli alikuwa ni mtu imara, mwenye upendo ambaye alipenda pia kusikiliza na kuweza kutoa mwongozo kwa wenzake…” sparking lots of laughter from the audience
Lwamasha said he speaks Kiswahili, English, French, Haya, Kinyambo and Kisukuma so he has the ability to speak those languages fluently but it was just a challenge that usually happens in translation work.
Professionally Lwamasha is a lecturer at Maritime College, University of Dar es Salaam where he teaches sailors and ship captains.
He said he was shocked after the laughter from the audience, and quickly realized that the laughter was about him.
He says that after realizing that his translation did not match what had been said, he was forced to correct the mistakes while continuing with the translation but finally apologized for the misinterpretation which caused the crowd in the stadium to cheer him on.
He says he has been an interpreter for the past 20 years.