By Kgomotso Ramotsho
On 9 October learners, Thembinkosi Msiza (17), Surprise Mahlangu (17) from Gauteng and Aviwe Vilane (16) and Emihle Majikija from KwaZulu-Natal were crowned champions at the sixth National School Moot Court Competition, held at the Constitutional Court. The team argued for the respondent.
Mr Mahlangu said he was shocked when they called out their names to announce his team as the winning team. ‘Everyone wanted it badly, I am quite excited that we won, it shows that we went an extra mile,’ he said.
The hypothetical case focused on human dignity, equality, supremacy of the Constitution, freedom of expression and assembly, demonstration, picketing and petition. The first leg of the competition, saw an approximate 64 learners, of teams of four from eight provinces. The Mpumalanga province was the only province that did not participate at this year’s competition.
The keynote speaker of the day, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery, said the annual competition was established in 2011 to create greater understanding of the Constitution and human rights in South African schools. ‘This year is particularly special for us as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of our Constitution. The competition aims to celebrate our Constitution, our constitutional rights and responsibilities, and strive to develop the potential of each participating learner,’ he said.
Mr Jeffery said it was always special that the final round of the competition takes place at the Constitutional Court. It reminded him of the words of late President Nelson Mandela when he formally opened the Constitutional Court on 14 February 1995, when he said – ‘The last time I appeared in court was to hear whether or not I was going to be sentenced to death. Fortunately for myself and my colleagues we were not. Today I rise not as an accused, but on behalf of the people of South Africa, to inaugurate a court South Africa has never had, a court on which hinges the future of our democracy.’
Mr Jeffery said, he would argue that the future of democracy is further enhanced by the calibre of learners and their participation in the National Schools Moot Court Competition. He said that having learners knowing the Constitution and human rights is of importance to his department. He announced that the Justice Department created a slimline version of the Constitution, and distributed over 500 000 copies to grade 11 and 12 learners in schools countrywide.
Mr Jeffery said for most learners it was the very first time they had ever read or had a copy of their own Constitution, as well as the Bill of Rights. He said during a dialogue the Justice Department held at Uitenhage, a leaner from Phaphane High School, Ntombizanele Klaas, said the Constitution will help her with her school projects. ‘This competition aims to create greater awareness in schools and communities in South Africa, and the values that it embodies through active participation,’ he said.
Mr Jeffery said that the moot competition has many benefits and allows learners to improve their public speaking skills, learn to structure a legal argument, analyse cases and develop writing skills.
Acting Chief Justice of the day, Justice Nonkosi Mhlantla, thanked the learners for entering the competition, she further thanked them for having interest in the legal fraternity. ‘Hopefully some of you would consider law as a career,’ she said.
Winners received prizes that included bursaries from Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr to study law.
Thando Mtombeni (17), Catelyn Cumberiege (17), Nompendulo Cele (15) and Kwanele Shange (15), who argued for the applicant, walked away with the runner-up prizes.
Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.
This article was first published in De Rebus in 2016 (Dec) DR 17.