Two Grade 11 learners from Springfield Convent in the Western Cape Province, Clara Marie Macheke and Claire Rankin were announced as the winners of the 2015 National Schools Moot Court Competition.
This was after a hard-hitting debate [click to access video of the final] on intricate constitutional matters around sexual orientation. The hypothetical problem statement was aimed at educating learners and raising awareness on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender and Intersex rights (LGBTI). The two teams had an opportunity to present their case before a panel of Constitutional Court judges, including amongst others, Justice Johann van der Westhuizen, Justice Elias Matojane, Adv Mohamed Shafie Ameermia and Prof Christopher Heyns.
The preliminary rounds, quarter-finals and semi-finals took place at the University of Pretoria from 08 to 09 October 2015. In his official opening of the occasion on 08 October 2015, the Deputy Minister for Basic Education, Mr Enver Surly, reflected on the 2015 problem statement which focused on sexual orientation. Deputy Minister Surty accentuated the importance of educating learners and schools on LGBTI rights and highlighted the need to intervene and eliminate the stigma and homophobic violence that these communities are subjected to on a daily basis. The competition plays a pivotal role in providing learners with insightful knowledge on human rights issues and the Constitution in order to become accountable and responsible future citizens.
Since its inception in 2011, the National Schools Moot competition has managed to explore various sections of the Bill of Rights such as equality, freedom of expression and human dignity. It is important that young people are provided with opportunities to engage in the simulation of legal processes that impact on the Constitution and related human right issues.
In its fifth year, the competition culminated at the Constitutional Court on 11 October 2015. The Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr John Jeffery, said during his official opening of the final session: “Competitions such as the Schools Moot Court continue to promote the Constitution amongst learners.” Mr Jeffrey thanked the DBE and other partners for prioritising this competition on the annual school calendar and encouraged the organisers to keep up their good work.
Source: Media statement, South African Government
This year high school learners from all over South Africa participated in the Fourth Annual National Schools Moot Court Competition (NSMCC). This is a non-profit initiative supported by the Centre for Human Rights in the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria. 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 hypothetical problem in which different constitutional rights are at play, always involving issues actually facing young people in South Africa today. 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 construct arguments for both the applicant and respondent in the hypothetical case. 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 national rounds took place from 9 to 12 October 2014 at the University of Pretoria. The competition provides an important platform for learners to meet one another and build friendships, whilst also gaining an unparalleled educational experience. This year learners visited Freedom Park, the Old Fort prison at Constitution Hill and the Constitutional Court. Participants also attended a gala dinner on the Saturday evening where the finalists were announced. One learner, Ntombizadwa Zaikhali from Paballelo High School in the Northern Cape shared a poem she penned over the weekend, “Proud African Woman,” at the gala dinner. For her creativity and inspiration, Zaikhali took home the inaugural award for the learner who best embodies the spirit of the competition.
The semi-final rounds took place on 11 October 2014. Attorneys, advocates, legal academics and senior law students judged the semi-final rounds. Each team argued twice, for applicant and for respondent, against teams from around the country. Learners were 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 Mbuyisela 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, Mr Enver Surty, delivered the keynote address and handed out awards to finalists and certificates to all participants. The learners were also addressed by Prof Christof Heyns of the University of Pretoria and Mr Brent Williams, Chief Executive Officer of Cliffe, Dekker and Hofmeyr, a partner of the NSMCC in 2014.
During the final rounds, the Constitutional Court was packed to the rafters with learners, educators, parents, competition partners, Constitutional Court clerks and the media. The competition finalists kept their nerves at bay while preparing to argue in the Constitutional Court, an opportunity most advocates in South Africa have never had. The judges posed formidable questions to the finalists, but the learners maintained their composure and decorum whilst responding to the questions.
The winners of this year’s NSMCC 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 may gain admission. The top ten overall teams also received book vouchers.
The NSMCC aims to create awareness amongst young people about their constitutional rights and how it affects their lived realities. It provides learners with the 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 NSMCC 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 competition appears to have had a profound impact on the learners who participated. Monyane Lebohang, from Rantsane Secondary School in the Free State, stated “I’m going to live a different life from now on because in everything I do I am going to consider the Constitution before I take action.” Another learner, Blanche Oberholzer of Grens High School in the Eastern Cape, described how the competition impacted her by creating “more awareness of the Constitution, protecting the rights of others and ourselves, and preserving democracy.”
The NSMCC is now in its fourth year, and the vision has always been to utilise this competition as a vehicle to bring together the legal profession and the legal academy around a common goal of supporting our learners. We encourage learners to share information about the competition with schools in their communities, and also to consider becoming involved as a volunteer for future competitions.
Further information about the competition is available on the website. Learners from the national rounds were encouraged to share their experiences 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 school, please contact NSMCC partner, Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative (CLASI) at www.clasi.org.za.
*By Coline Bruintjies, National Coordinator for CLASI and Meetali Jain, Coordinator of the NSMCC
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