The Faculty of Law (UP Law) at the University of Pretoria (UP) extends hearty congratulations to Professor Phumudzo Munyai on his appointment as Head of the Department of Mercantile Law.
Munyai started his academic career as an academic associate in the UP Department of Mercantile Law many years ago, and has come full circle to lead the same department as from 1 January 2021.
Munyai has vast legal experience, which includes working at Unisa for a decade in various academic positions culminating in him becoming Associate Professor; Teaching and Research Assistant at the Law Faculty of the University of Cape Town; Case Manager and Researcher at the Competition Tribunal of South Africa; and Law Clerk and Researcher to former Constitutional Court Judge, Justice Yvonne Mokgoro.
Munyai is widely recognised in South Africa as the first South African to obtain an LLD degree in Competition Law.
In her congratulatory letter to Munyai, Dean of the UP Law Faculty, Professor Elsabe Schoeman, wished him ‘continued success and expressed hope that the Department of Mercantile Law will flourish under his leadership and skills’.
UP Law has posed a few questions to Professor Munyai on his appointment.
1. UP Law: Where were you born and bred? And what influence has this had on your studies?
PM: I was born and bred in Mangodi, a village 20 kilometres east of Thohoyandou, in Limpopo. The culture and values a person is exposed to when growing up tends to shape not only the person one becomes as an adult, but also influence some of the major decisions and choices one make in life. So, my background, and a combination of other factors, played an important role in my choice to study law, as well as how I was able to deal with the challenges I faced as a student and still be able to excel in my studies.
2. UP Law: When did you realise you wanted to pursue a career as a lawyer?
PM: I have to be honest. I didn’t exactly grow up as a young boy with a burning desire that one day I want to become a lawyer or law professor. In school, I was more passionate about the natural sciences and excelled in those subjects. As a youngster, I was a soccer player, and a good one at that. But I was a soccer player who spent most of his time defending my teammates against unfairness in the ways I saw them being treated by the club or coaches. So the idea of studying law was suggested to me by people who know me, from my family, soccer coaches and teachers at school. But there was another stroke of what I believe was fate which pushed me further towards a career in law: one time when I visited my mother at her place of work (my mother was a domestic worker), I found an old labour law textbook thrown near the dustbin area. I picked up the book, cleaned it and started reading it during my high school days and even kept it until after I graduated my LLB. Coincidentally, labour law was to became the first law subject I worked in after completing my LLB. My first job was to be an Academic Associate in the Department of Mercantile Law, University of Pretoria.
3. UP Law: How did you achieve this aim?
PM: In short, it was through sacrifice, perseverance and hard work.
4. UP Law: What are your plans for your term as HoD of the Department of Mercantile Law
PM: The Department of Mercantile Law is a special department for many reasons. I consider myself very fortunate that in the Department of Mercantile Law I am joining a team of highly rated and brilliant senior academics together with a core of talented young academics with a bright future. My plans for the department are very simple: to make academics in the Department of Mercantile Law, specifically, and the Law Faculty, in general, love, enjoy and excel in what they do, by focusing in my leadership on promoting and creating an environment where there is unity, respect and embrace of diversity, mutual respect and trust, collegiality and collaboration.
5. UP Law: You have been exposed to a wide variety of fields in the legal profession - from a researcher for Emeritus Professor Constitutional Court of South Africa Justice Yvonne Mokgoro to working at the Competition Tribunal. How will these experiences contribute to your appointment as HoD?
PM: As a researcher, my exposure over the years to diverse legal fields, which include labour law, corporate law, constitutional and administrative law, international trade and competition law, has served me well. With my background, I have been able, independently (that is without co-authorship), to author and publish peer-reviewed and accredited research output on topics that have linkages among some of these fields, which I found to be of great help. As an incoming HoD and line manager, my exposure to legal fields such as labour law, corporate law and corporate governance as well as constitutional law places me in a position where I feel confident that I will be able to make decisions that are legally sound, ethical and fair.
6. UP Law: Do you have a message for UP Law students as they enter the last stretch of this unparalleled academic year?
PM: I would advise them to remain disciplined and focused on their studies as we enter the last stretch of this unusual academic year. I would also advise them to be more proactive in seeking any form of help or assistance they may need from the University and their lecturers to make their studies under these difficult conditions as smooth as possible.
7. Anything that you wish to add.
PM: I have already said a mouthful.