De Rebus contributor retires after 38 years

October 1st, 2013

By Kathleen Kriel

After 38 years of contributing to the ‘Recent articles and research’ column in De Rebus, Professor Henk Delport has decided that it is time to retire as author of the feature.

Professor Delport started writing the column when he was 24 years old with Professor JCW van Rooyen. ‘He was professor of criminal law at the University of Pretoria. He later withdrew as co-author because of other work commitments and I continued on my own,’ Professor Delport said.

The ‘Recent articles’ column was first published in July 1975, when De Rebus was still known as De Rebus Procuratoriis and printed in A5 format. ‘There were not many law journals in those years, and putting together the column was relatively easy, except that everything had to be done by hand. There were no dictaphones, scanners, e-mail or word-processing. Initially the column concentrated on local law journals, including LLM dissertations and LLD theses. Later I was asked by the editor to also cover foreign journals and incorporate articles of interest to South African practitioners. However, a few years after that I had to revert to local journals only due to space considerations, but by then the South African legal landscape had changed substantially; there were 16 law journals and the volume of articles had grown exponentially.’

According to Professor Delport, compiling the column was a wonderful way for him to keep up to date with new publications and research, covering all fields in law. ‘Busy practitioners simply do not have the time to do that, and I enjoyed knowing that the column made it a bit easier for them to stay abreast of new developments,’ he said.

‘Over the years I was regularly contacted by practitioners requesting copies of journal articles they had seen in the column. That confirmed my belief not only that academics do have a role to play, but also that there is a real desire among practitioners to keep up to date and stay informed. Regrettably, I had to decline each such request due to copyright considerations and lack of resources on my part. Access to justice is a problem, but so is access to knowledge for many practitioners, especially those in rural areas. Perhaps one day it will be possible to click on the title of an article in the column and then download a copy there and then. That will really elevate the column to a different level,’ he said.

Professor Delport is currently employed at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, from where he will retire in about three years’ time. ‘I enjoy lecturing, engaging in research activities, and supervising postgraduate students’ he said.

When asked what he will miss of contributing to De Rebus, Professor Delport said: ‘Strangely, I’ll miss the monthly deadline for submission of the contribution. It was part of my life for so long, almost a way of life.’

Kathleen Kriel,

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2013 (Oct) DR 17.