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Unisa online - Unisa Law Clinic officially opens moot court

From left: Mr H Saayman (Head of Unisa Law Clinic), Judge A Ledwaba (Judge of the High Court: North Gauteng), Prof S Lotter (Head: Graduate Studies, College of Law), Prof M Makhanya (Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Unisa), Prof R Songca (Executive Dean: College of Law), Judge D Basson and Prof M Slabbert (Director: School of Law)

Tradition has it that moot courts had their genesis in the gathering of prominent villagers who would deliberate on matters of communal importance, said Prof Mandla Makhanya, Unisa’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, when he officially opened the moot court.

Over the years, moot courts have evolved to their current vibrant status and their advent usually heralds lots of excitement and anticipation, which is not surprising when one considers the wide array of human rights and other legal issues that are covered by the courts, at local, national and international levels.

“It is heartening to know that we have youngsters cutting their ‘legal teeth’ on time-honoured traditions and training at a very early age…  moot courts allow us to share our insights, test our minds and our arguments, plumb the depths of our knowledge and expertise, and share and network with our peers,” said Prof Makhanya

A keynote speaker at the event, Judge A Ledwaba, Judge of the High Court: North Gauteng, shared his experiences and encouraged students to make use of the opportunity to build their careers. He also encouraged students to visit courts to observe court proceedings. Judge Ledwaba said the legal profession is an honoured profession and highlighted the importance of trial advocacy.

Speaking at the official opening, Prof Rushiella Songca, Executive Dean of the College of Law, said the college has reviewed and continues to streamline its PQM, and has introduced the research module for LLB students, which is intended to improve writing and analytical skills. “It is befitting that we should, in addition to these developments, have a court where our students can further hone their skills. The benefits of having a moot court attached to the college cannot be overemphasised. In part, the experience will enhance our students’ research and writing skills, and sharpen their oral and analytical skills. The ability of our students to communicate more effectively will be enhanced and they will be able to think on their feet.”

Prof Songca said it is believed that the moot court improves the overall performance of students and makes them more attractive to potential employers. “We note that our students have previously been involved in moot court competitions, but they lacked a room to engage effectively. We are optimistic that the court will provide our students with an opportunity to participate in an environment akin to a real court, and we believe that this, in turn, will provide them with an opportunity to practise their advocacy skills.”

Prof Songca said that equality is very important and implored students to bear this in mind when they are out there in the world. “No matter how articulate you might be, or how successful you might be, your expertise will always be limited or darkened if you treat people with disrespect, or if you feel that other people are inferior to you and if you are burdened with what defines us as African people, that is ubuntu.”

During his presentation, Prof Makhanya said, “There can be no doubt that young people in South Africa and our continent deeply desire a calibre of leadership that is exemplary – not only in terms of their respect for the rule of law, but also in terms of the behaviours that go hand-in-hand with the associated responsibility.”

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