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Translation of Adam Habib’ South Africa’s Suspended revolution: Hopes & prospects

Adam Habib’s South Africa’s Suspended revolution: Hopes & prospects, published by Wits University Press has been translated into three other South African languages; Afrikaans, isiZulu and Sesotho.

 This book, which was reprinted within two months from its original release in August 2013, can best be described as ‘cross-over’ non-fiction. It caters to two main audiences: scholarly readers (academics, students, researchers, policy analysts, journalists) and non-specialist readers with an interest in South African politics. 

As a distinguished academic and well-respected political analyst / commentator who feature regularly in the country’s media, Adam Habib speaks to an academic as well as general reader interested in South African politics. In order to promote more wide-ranging debate on the topic of South Africa’s future, and in order to take this debate outside the academic and metropolitan centres, Wits University Press has made a shortened version of the book available in isiZulu, Sesotho and Afrikaans.  The publication in these languages is a strategy to promote wider access to important political debates. 

Wits University Press approached WITSTranslate (based at the Wits Language School) for the translation process. Potential translators were invited via the South African Translators’ Institute (SATI) to translate two excerpts from the abridged version of the book in order to qualify for the task. The following translators were selected: Marné Pienaar (Afrikaans), Bongeka Selepe (isiZulu) and Lebohang Mathibela (Sesotho). They met with the author to discuss an approach, as it was important to maintain the correct political nuance when translating into another language’s idiom.

The translation process was complex and took approximately three months. The translation process has been a huge learning curve for Wits Press. It’s surprisingly unusual for non-fiction and specifically political books to be translated into African languages in South Africa. 

Wits University Press publisher, Veronica Klipp said about the translations, “Wits University Press hopes that the result will be a series of ground-breaking publications that open up new debates around both language policies and South Africa’s political future”.