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Honouring a legal giant where he began his legal studies

Adv. Michael Masutha (Minister of Justice and Correctional Services)

“Who better to invite fresh innovative ideas from than young legal enthusiasts such as students?”—Advocate Michael Masutha

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services was delivering the keynote address at the launch of the South African Law Reform Commission Legal Essay Writing Competition at Unisa on 23 February 2018.

“What better mechanism is there,” the minister continued, “to encourage students’ involvement in law reform than through a competition of this nature?”

Apart from stimulating new and innovative ideas about law reform, legal writing competitions hone the legal research and writing expertise of students, foundational skills that lawyers needed for success and for justice to be achieved effectively, he pointed out.

Masutha also said that students often limited themselves when thinking about law as a career. “The legal profession is vast, and apart from practising as attorneys and advocates, students can choose to be professional legal researchers, which is what this competition is also trying to expose them to.”

Previously known as the Ismail Mahomed Law Reform Essay Competition, which the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) and Juta Law have been running since 1999, the name has now been changed to the SALRC Legal Essay Writing Competition.

Zodwa Msane (Unisa LLB student and 2017 All Africa Moot Court participant)

Aadelah Shaik (Winner: 2017 Ismail Mahomed Law Reform Essay Competition)

Sibusiso Mbutho (Runner-up: 2017 Ismail Mahomed Law Reform Essay Competition)

The main reason for this is to allow SALRC to honour all chief justices and other great South African legal minds. Thus the prizes for this competition will be rotated periodically and named after a particular legal stalwart.

For the year 2018, SALRC has chosen to dedicate the competition to the late Chief Justice Pius Nkonzo Langa.

Prof Mandla Makhanya, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Unisa, said in his opening address that Justice Langa was one of the university’s eminent and most distinguished alumni. “He was one of the prominent architects of our globally acclaimed constitution and the early establishment of our judicial system. When the history of our democratic transition is written, the name of Justice Langa and his cohort of legal luminaries who led this process of establishing the legal cornerstones and pillars of our democracy will receive special treatment as trailblazers and pathfinders of a system that has stood the test of time.”

He said that he hoped to see a new cohort of legal giants arising from the participants in the competition who would be worthy of joining this galaxy of stars.

Phumzile Gumbi, who represented the family, thanked SALRC and Juta for honouring her father, who, she said, was a man of integrity who fought fiercely for the independence of the judiciary.

Judge Jody Kollapen, SALRC Chairperson, highlighted that the competition was evidence of the fact that young people could make a valuable contribution to law precisely because they were without baggage, courageous, bold, and insightful.

Three young legal eagles were on hand to give advice to the potential entrants of the competition.

“Take the chances, beat the odds,” urged Zodwa Msane, Unisa LLB student and 2017 All Africa Moot Court participant.

“The competition is an opportunity to have our voices heard,” said Aadelah Shaik, winner of the 2017 Ismail Mahomed Law Reform Essay Competition. “It will help you recognise your potential,” added Sibusiso Mbutho, who was the runner-up in 2017. “This is your opportunity to write your name in the stars!”

Front centre: Adv. Michael Masutha (Minister of Justice and Correctional Services), Phumzile Gumbi (daughter of the late Chief Justice Pius Nkonzo Langa), and Prof Mandla Makhanya (Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Unisa) with honoured guests at the launch of the 2018 SALRC Legal Essay Writing Competition at Unisa

*By Sharon Farrell