National Schools Moot Court Competition 2014

February 1st, 2015
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By Coline Bruintjies and Meetali Jain

This year high school learners from all over South Africa participated in the 4th Annual National Schools Moot Court Competition (NSMCC). This is a non-profit initiative supported by the University of Pretoria, Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law. Other key stakeholders include the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, the Department of Basic Education, the Foundation for Human Rights, the Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative, the Constitution Hill Education Project and the South African Human Rights Commission. The competition is open to grade 10 and 11 learners from high schools throughout South Africa. The learners are given a factual problem in which different constitutional rights are at play, which involve issues faced by young people in South Africa. This year’s problem was based on the limits to the right to freedom of expression within a school context. Learners were required to write essays and come up with arguments for both sides of the hypothetical situation. The top nine schools from each province advanced to the provincial rounds of the competition, where they argued against other schools in their province. The top four teams from the provincial oral rounds advanced to the national rounds of the competition.

The competition aims to create awareness among young people about their constitutional rights and how it affects their lived realities. It gives the learners an opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue about the Constitution in context and find creative ways to resolve some of the pressing issues affecting young people today. The competition also affords the learners an opportunity to develop critical research, written and oral skills during this process. They are also given the opportunity to interact with other learners from across the country, with whom they can learn from and share experiences.

The national rounds were held over the long weekend of 9 – 12 October 2014. The semi-finals took place at the University of Pretoria on 11 October 2014. Attorneys, advocates, legal academics and senior law students made up the body of judges at the semi-final rounds. Each team argued twice, once for the applicant and once for the respondent, against teams from around the country. The day was long, but the learners came away enriched by the experience of acting as counsel with robes before some of the nation’s top legal minds.

The final rounds took place at the Constitutional Court on 12 October 2014, where the finalists presented arguments before Justices Sisi Khampepe and Mbuyiseli Madlanga of the Constitutional Court, Judge Jody Kollapen of the North Gauteng High Court, Professor Ann Skelton of the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria, and advocate McCaps Motimele of the General Council of the Bar. Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Enver Surty delivered the keynote address and handed out awards to finalists and certificates to all participants.

The winners of this year’s competition were Kim Lentswe and Gomotsegang Montsho from Grenville High School in the North West Province. The runners up were Justin Kuni and Anele Nyaka from Gibson Pillay High School in Gauteng. The best essays belonged to Eluthia Snyders and Ricardo De Vos from Grassdale High School in the Western Cape. These six learners walked away with book vouchers and bursaries towards their first year of law studies at any South African university in which they gain admission. The top ten overall teams also went home with book vouchers.

We encourage readers of De Rebus to share information about the competition with schools in their communities, and also to consider becoming involved as volunteers for future competitions. Learners from the national rounds were encouraged to share their learnings with their peers back at their schools and in their communities, and many committed to doing so. For assistance with establishing a law and/or moot club at a high school please contact NSMCC partner, Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative at www.clasi.org.za.

Coline Bruintjies, National Coordinator for CLASI and Meetali Jain, Coordinator for NSMCC

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2015 (Jan/Feb) DR 19.