ADDRESS BY THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT, MR A C NEL, ON THE OCCASION OF THE SECOND NATIONAL SCHOOLS MOOT COURT COMPETITION. CONSTITUTIONAL COURT, 29 APRIL 2012
Good morning, Ndi macheloni, Sanibonani, Goeie More, Dumelang, Avuxeni, Thobela, Molweni
Honourable Justices of the Constitutional Court, Justices Bess Nkabinde and Edwin Cameron;
Dr. Zonke Majodina, Chairperson of the UN Human Rights Committee of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Treaty Body;
Ms Yasmin Sooka; Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights;
Prof. Ann Skelton, Centre for Child Rights at the University of Pretoria;
Prof. Frans Viljoen, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Law: University of Pretoria;
Members of the Faculty of Law: Universities of Venda, Pretoria, Western Cape;
Representatives of the SA Human Rights Commission;
Learners from the various schools
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you very much for the invitation to participate in this extremely important event. At the outset let me take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Honorable Judges present here today for their tremendous support and contribution to this programme; no doubt the interactions they would have had with our future lawyers and judges would have been a mutually enriching and transformative experience.
Let me also say that it the first time that I address the Constitutional Court
I would also like to thank the organisers of the event the University Pretoria (UP), in collaboration with the Universities of Venda and Western Cape, as well as the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR), the South African Human Rights Commission, Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative and the Departments of Basic Education and Justice and Constitutional Development.
I have enjoyed this wonderful opportunity of watching our future lawyers stand up and argue their points in the Constitutional Court in defense of human rights and socio-economic development. I am convinced that indeed providing a platform such as this not only helps us celebrate our constitution, our rights, our duties, but also, it strives to free the potential of each learner participating, inspiring each one of them to look deeper into themselves and ask the important question: what is it that I can do to make a contribution in my community, society and country?
In my preparation for this address, I took a brief look at the opportunity to look at the report of the First Schools Moot Court Competition, and to read some of the feedback the project received from the learners, educators and judges and thought it to be of value to share some of these observations:
“Winning this Competition really opened up a new passion of mine, which is the law, said Lebidike Phatudi, of King Edward VIII School, Gauteng, I am now a firm believer in our justice system and feel it my responsibility to uphold the laws that govern our land and make everyone else aware of their Constitutional Rights.”
Clementine Mhlongo of Hoerskool Lydenburg said:
“Now I know that I have rights and responsibilities and whatever I do from now onwards I should take into account the rights of others and should not violate other people’s rights. I could be in a position where my rights are limited as well.”
“The Competition is doing a very important thing for our generation. It would be a great benefit if it could be an annual event. I have also learned that no matter how old you are if you work hard enough you can do anything and make a difference”, said Kananelo Manyane of Ficksburg High School
“We always celebrate Human Rights Day, but so few know the true significance of what we are actually commemorating. Also, to celebrate it at the Constitutional Court... WOW! As the Chief Justice said, few lawyers have ever had the privilege of being inside the Court. Even my brother was envious! It was really amazing...Also, attached to this e-mail, please find a poem I have written (on the blue dress). It was inspired by the tour of the Constitutional Court by the great veteran Albie Sachs. Yours sincerely Nompilo Mkhize”
On Friday 27 April, South Africans celebrated our 18th Freedom Year. We all become extremely emotional when we recall the events of that historic day on 27 April 1994, when former President Nelson Mandela cast the first vote in a free, united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa, we recall the expressions of joy and dignity on the faces of the millions of South African citizens who patiently waited their turn in the long voting queues, that defining moment, when they exercised their fundamental human right collectively to determine their common destiny.
For the past few days you (the learners) have been actively involved in discussions and arguments with your fellow colleagues, the teachers at the law school and the judges about human rights. Can I ask you, the learners, where do human rights begin? (Wait for responses from learners)
I am sure you will agree we need not look very far to understand human rights, we need not look to the great halls of the United Nations or the African Union. Human rights begin in our homes, in the communities we live in, in our classrooms and universities, on the farms and factories. It is in these very places we all seek equality, human dignity, the advancement of our human rights and freedoms, non-racialism, non-sexism and social justice. It is in these places where we give content and meaning to our human rights.
Since we won our freedom in 1994, we all have been engaged in building a united and democratic South Africa, our Nation-building project requires too that all South Africans live by example, ensuring that that the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution become a living reality in the development of fully functional communities. The learners gathered here today and the learners all across South Africa have an important role to play in building an active and conscious human rights citizenry.
Your participation in this competition is a stepping stone in our efforts to ensure that the Constitution and the legal system as a whole become a living reality in communities throughout the country. It is indeed our hope that through your participation and engagement in the last three days with esteemed legal scholars, constitutional court judges, legal practitioners and human rights activists you will carry forward the message of the Constitution and help instill the constitutional values in successive generations of our citizens.
We need not look beyond the boundaries of our country to understand the role learners can play in protecting and promoting human rights, the Soweto school children of 16 June 1976 who will be forever remembered for daring to stand up to the apartheid regime in exchange for their lives, thereby changing the course of the country's history: In an article on the Youth Day: Lessons from 1976, published on the South Africa information website, the youth of today shared some of their insights and I quote:
Taelo Mokoena from Johannesburg, said there are great lessons to learn from the students of the 1976 uprisings. He said although today's youngsters are not fighting for the same things, they are also facing challenges that they need to liberate themselves from, such as unemployment, poverty and crime.
"We need to come out of a mindset where we as youth wait for the government to do things for us. We need to liberate ourselves from our circumstances and take up opportunities that are available to us and build a better future for ourselves."
Mokoena said the biggest lesson young people of today should learn from those in 1976 is the courage to fight for change. "We should always celebrate June 16 because the courage of the youth then proved to us that it is possible for young people to bring change in our country."
"Unemployment and HIV/Aids are the two major struggles the youth today are faced with," said Dikeledi Madau from Rustenburg, North West. "We must use the example set by the students of 1976 to inspire our youth to dedicate themselves to being empowered and fighting HIV/Aids, in the same way the youth of 1976 dedicated their lives to defeat apartheid."
Madau said young South Africans remain a central part of the country's success. "For this country to grow and develop, the youth need to be empowered. The development of the youth is central to the transformation of this country and the enhancement of the lives of all South Africans”.
We hope that through initiatives such as this Moot Court Competition we have begun a process to build unity and harmony between the different and diverse sections of South African society by promoting, protecting and appreciating the constitutional values. That indeed we have laid the groundwork for the ongoing realisation of all South Africans.
Lastly, I hope that in the very near future many of you will be working for the Department of Justice and Constitution Development, either as members of the National Prosecuting Authority, or as State Attorneys or as State Law Advisors or for Legal Aid South Africa.
And, of course, that some of you will one day sit here as Justices of the Constitutional Court.
I thank you.