Ismail Mahomed Law Reform Essay Competition

Law reform gets new ideas from students

An engagement between SA Law Reform Commission and South African university students resulted in a cultivation of innovative, creative and brilliant ideas.on issues of law reform in South Africa (SA). This was part of an Annual Ismail Mahomed Law Reform Essay Competition. The Competition, named in honour of the late Chief Justice Mahomed, aims to encourage critical legal writing by students, whilst generating new and innovative ideas for law reform.

The initiative also seeks to encourage legal scholarships and dialogues on the link between law reform, human rights and the rule of law. The winning essays will be published on Juta Law’s website and will be submitted for possible publication in a suitable academic journal. An award ceremony was held on 22 July at the Constitutional Court to honour the winners.  The competition is organised by the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) and Juta Publishers.

SALRC Chairperson Justice Yvonne Mokgoro welcomed all those who attended saying the event was important in ensuring law reform in South Africa. Justice Mokgoro congratulated all those who entered the competition. She said they were all winners “I would like to thank everyone for taking time to put their thoughts in writing. Their entries prove to us that the future of our country is in good hands. They are all winners,” she said.

Giving the keynote address, Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo thanked the SALRC and Juta for having such a competition. “I commend both the Commission and Juta for continuously reminding us of Chief Justice Mohamed’s legacy of using the law for the attainment of justice, and thus keeping his memory alive for the promising lawyers of the next generation,” he said.

The Chief Justice acknowledged all the students who entered the competition noting that the amount of time and effort that they put in must be regarded as investment for the future.  He said they all should be proud for undertaking the process of rigorous legal research and writing, and for helping the legal community begin to think through important avenues for law reform.  “It gives me a sense of pride to see such talented and committed young people entering the legal profession.”

South Africa, according to Chief Justice Ngcobo, needs lawyers to use their skills, talent, and energy in ensuring that the rights in the Bill of Rights are a reality for the people of SA.  “Our constitutional jurisprudence is still in a nascent stage, and the contours of our constitutional democracy will be shaped for generations to come based on what we, as lawyers and judges, do now with the Constitution we created in order to build a bridge out of apartheid,” he explained.

The students who entered the competition were urged by the Chief Justice to assist in creating and maintaining a just society, the one envisaged by the Constitution.  “No matter where you find yourselves after graduation, you must keep in mind, the spirit of this competition. The building of the new South Africa has, at its core, the continued reform of the law so as to build a just and equitable society.  And it is you who are best-placed to be pioneers of that reform,” he said.

The competition was judged by a panel appointed by the SA Law Reform Commission consisting of Adv Thulisile Madonsela (Public Protector of SA), Professors Cathi Albertyn (Wits and part-time Commissioner at the SALRC), Thandabantu Nhlapo (Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cape Town), Pamela Schwikkard (Dean: Law Faculty at the University of Cape Town) and Managay Reddi (Dean: Law Faculty of the University of KwaZulu-Natal).

The winners for this year are as follows; Stuart Scott from the University of KwaZulu-Natal won in the LLB category. The topic of his submission was “Does copyright law have a sense of humour? The need for the introduction of a clear defence to copyright infringement based on parody and satire.” Timothy Fish Hodgson from the University of Cape Town was the runner up in this category. His essay was about “Reasonableness as a comparative heuristic, polycentricity, separation of powers and socio-economic rights jurisprudence.”


From left to right:
Ms Sanita van Wyk (winner in the LLM category  from the University of Stellenbosch); Mr Henri Nkuepo (runner-up in the LLM category from the University of the Western Cape); Mr Stuart Scott (winner in the LLB category, University of KwaZulu-Natal); Justice Sandile Ngcobo, Chief Justice of SA; Timothy Hodgson (runner-up in the LLB category, University of Cape Town).

Sanita van Wyk from the University of Stellenbosch won in the LLM category for her essay titled “A comparative study of crimes against life in South Africa and Germany.” University of the Western Cape’s student Henri Nkuepo was the runner up in this category. He wrote an essay about “Enhancing the capacity of policy makers to mainstream gender in trade policy and make trade responsive to women’s needs: a South African perspective.”

By Neliswa Demana
26 Jul 2011