The rebirth of the BLA’s, African Law Review

September 1st, 2018

Former Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and former Director of the BLA’s-LEC, Bakone Justice Moloto, spoke at the launch of the African Law Review Journal on 17 July in Johannesburg.

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

The Black Lawyers Association – Legal Education Centre (BLA-LEC) officially relaunched its African Law Review Journal on 17 July in Johannesburg. Former Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and former Director of the BLA’s-LEC, Bakone Justice Moloto, gave a brief history of how and why the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) was formed. He said that the BLA was born out of the idea to fight battles for black lawyers in Johannesburg.

He added that as a result black lawyers came together and formalised an association now known as the BLA. He said after the association was formally formed, the BLA established namely, the BLA-LEC, which had four objectives:

  • To improve legal skills of black lawyers through education, as black lawyers were regarded as poor litigants in court. The trial advocacy was established to train young legal practitioners in trial skills.
  • To do community work. The BLA decided to take on law cases for the indigent, mainly black people. Black law firms took turns to represent people at the Bantu Affairs Commissioners Court.
  • To address issues of the day. The African Law Review was established as a forum and a platform where legal practitioners and the members of society could share ideas and make contributions to the development of the country with regard to the law.
  • Increasing the number of black legal practitioners.

Judge Moloto said the one problem during that time was there were very few black law firms in the country. He said because of the historic events in the country, black law firms were picking up the crumbs from the legal profession and that resulted in black lawyers not having a large amount of article clerks. He pointed out that the BLA-LEC raised funds and came into agreements with black law firms to give articles of clerkship where the BLA-LEC paid 50% of the salary and the other 50% was paid by the law firm. He added that the BLA-LEC also sent young black legal practitioners to the United States (US) to be trained in skills of trial advocacy and asked legal practitioners who were more advanced from the US to come to South Africa (SA) to train legal practitioners.

President of the Progressive Professionals Forum, Mzwanele Manyi, challenged the BLA, to address the issue of land expropriation without compensation.

Message of support from the Progressive Professionals Forum

The President of the Progressive Professionals Forum, Mzwanele Manyi, pointed out that the initiative of the African Law Review being relaunched, must be welcomed as it was long overdue. He said he hoped that the BLA and the BLA-LEC would work hard to make sure that the legal profession rises to the occasion and addresses certain issues. He pointed out that he was worried about several issues and thought there were a lot of things that the legal profession can do, such as, saving people money and time.

Mr Manyi also announced that Afrotone Media Holdings was offering an evening television slot to the BLA-LEC, as a platform where they can deal with matters of the law transparently and also tell people about the services the legal profession provides.

New era for intellectual endeavours

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha, said that the relaunching of the African Law Review, was a new era of pulling together collective intellectual endeavours in the legal profession, of African black legal practitioners in general. To concentrate the collective efforts in contributing to many current discourses in the same manner, former President Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, and many other icons in SA’s history made contributions. The contributions made as legal practitioners, political and human rights activists at the time and shaping the nation of today.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha, said the legal profession in South Africa remained untransformed.

Mr Masutha added that there were several challenges that needed to be confronted. He said the legal profession remained untransformed and pointed out that since his term in office, of the applications for silks he had received, only three were from black applicants. He said that in the whole of SA there are less than six African female silks. Mr Masutha said the profession had a duty to make sure that it created conducive conditions for young emerging, black and female legal practitioners and to create space for them to enter the profession, to grow and evolve all the time.

Mr Masutha added that established legal practitioners, both black and white, needed to have young legal practitioners, especially black and female, tag along with them. He said maybe it should become a rule that every bar be obligated to develop young legal practitioners. He pointed out that big white law firms were preferred to deal with lucrative matters, however, he said those big white law firms needed to make sure that they lead transformation and must be responsible for skills transfer and to ensure that opportunities are open for those who have been historically excluded.

Mr Masutha said he believed that the African Law Review will offer a fresh platform for the legal profession to bring something new and different with fresh ideas. He added that tools like the African Law Review, should be used to overcome some of the injustice that continues to trouble the legal profession, society and the country.

Pledge from the LSSA

Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA), Anthony Pillay, said the LSSA has a duty to support the African Law Review, financially and in terms of resources. He added that the LSSA was committed to raising funds to make sure the journal that gives a voice to the marginalised for many years becomes a success. ‘We are happy this publication will again be available, largely for black practitioners, but [also] to the … legal profession as a whole’.

In a statement released by the BLA-LEC it was stated that the African Law Review will be a quarterly journal, published under the auspices of the BLA-LEC. According to the BLA-LEC, the journal was designed to offer a legal perspective on issues of national importance, for public consumption. The BLA-LEC further stated that the African Law Review was a platform to promote black excellence and a diversity of views. BLA-LEC added that the journal was strategically revived to trigger national debates, intensify national and international discourse and promote necessary legal reforms and transformation.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2018 (September) DR 10.