UP Law students top five in the Olympic Games of legal education

Posted on April 12, 2018

The Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition is the largest and most prestigious Moot Court Competition in the world, and the most direct way in which law faculties’ students measure their strength against each other.

From 1 to 7 April 2018 the TuksLaw team, consisting of Mary-Ann Gettliffe (LLM), Rohula Bilankulu (LLB III), Thomas White (LLB IV), and Sohela Surajpal (LLB II) competed against 680 law faculties representing 100 countries from around the world. The TuksLaw Team was one of the top eight teams that made it to the quarter-finals of the ‘Jessup’, hosted in Washington D.C., and was ultimately placed fifth overall. The TuksLaw team also won the Alona E Evans Award for Best Memorial at the White & Case International Rounds.  The TuksLaw team ranked higher than Harvard University, University of Oxford, Stanford University and Norman Manley Law School, to mention a few. Again they are also the highest ranked team in Africa.

This year's case (compromis) was based on international arbitration law, nuclear disarmament obligations, use of force and the capture of marine vessels.

According to Professor Christof Heyns, Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA) at the University of Pretoria and a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, he and Gift Kgomosoto, the team's coach and a former moot champion, were strategising last year when they decided they want to win this Competition within the next five years. 'So we started months in advance, and the team worked through the December holidays. Given our recent performance in the Jessup, we are even more convinced we can win this Competition. It will take more blood, sweat and tears than we have already put in.

While the team was competing in Washington last week, I was attending a UN meeting in Geneva, during which I received a message from Gift, one of the most talented young international law students that I have ever encountered: ‘Prof, this is unbelievably competitive, but we are going through to the quarter finals'. I was moved by that. There is nothing that compares with realising you are not just running with but also up against the best in the world - and you have a realistic chance to beat them. And here our students were gaining that experience. Given that making it to the top is unbelievably competitive there is only one thing we can do – we will have to be unbelievably competitive too. Start even earlier, work even harder, let other things go. But given our track record, reaching the top is a real possibility; it is within striking distance. We will be starting the try-outs for the 2019 TuksLaw team very soon.’

The TuksLaw team was invited to represent South Africa at the International Rounds after winning all available categories at the National Rounds of the Competition against the University of Johannesburg and the University of the Western Cape in February 2018.

At the international preliminary rounds, the UP team prevailed against the University of Queensland and the University of Tokyo, whereafter they proceeded to the advanced rounds where they beat Indonesia and Russia. They lost their first match against the United Kingdom’s Kings College and were thus eliminated from the Quarterfinals. The University of Queensland won the Competition and the National Law School of India University was the runner-up.


The Faculty of Law is extremely proud of the accomplishments of our students, maintaining our reputation for being the global law faculty in Africa.  We wish to thank all those involved in making it possible for the TuksLaw team to partake in this year’s Jessup International Rounds:

Professor Christof Heyns, Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa in the Faculty of Law and a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee managed the preparations of and fundraising for the TuksLaw team. In particular we wish to thank Dr Stuart Maslen and Professor Dire Tladi for their assistance in preparing the team.

We are also very grateful to the following institutions and individuals who provided or arranged financial assistance: Allan Gray; Bowman Gilfillan; Law Society of the Northern Provinces; Pretoria Bar of Advocates; Charles Webster (Spoor and Fisher); Professors André Boraine; Charles Fombad; Niek Grové; Frans Haupt; Christof Heyns; Ann Skelton and Stefan van Eck.

The Faculty of Law of the University of Pretoria has a sterling record in many moot courts, including the Jessup. TuksLaw has won the South African Competition 13 times during the last 25 years. They were number two in the world in 1999, when Laurence Mashawa won the award as Best Oralist in the word. The TuksLaw's Jessup record is on a plaque just outside the TuksLaw Kiosk, where the names of this year’s team will soon be added.



To the right of the podium:  Thomas White, Mary-Ann Gettliffe, Sohela Surajpal and Rohula Bilankulu. This photo was taken just after TuksLaw has beaten Queensland, the eventual winners.

Court is in session.

Flying the South African flag high


Walking the streets of Washington...


Media coverage:


Groot Ontbyt, Kyknet

Student Times, 19 April 2018




- Author Elzet Hurter

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