‘The ICJ has recruited a judge who is capable of great things’ – UP Interim VC on Prof Dire Tladi’s appointment to the World Court

Posted on November 24, 2023

The University of Pretoria (UP) is proud to have been the academic and professional home of Professor Dire Tladi, who is destined for the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands. This sentiment was expressed by Professor Themba Mosia, UP Interim Vice-Chancellor and Principal, at a congratulatory ceremony for Prof Tladi, a professor of international law, following his historic appointment, which sees him become the first South African to serve as a judge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), commonly known as the World Court.

The appointment was announced by the presidents of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council after rigorous voting rounds in November this year.

“American civil rights activist and minister Martin Luther King Jr said, ‘If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way,’” Prof Mosia said. “Prof Tladi, we salute you for being an example of doing a number of small things in a great way which has led to many great things, the best of which we are sure is still to come in your new role. 

“Navigating the challenges of what was an intense campaign over the past few months must have been extremely demanding, and we would like to commit our support to you as you take on the pursuit of global peace and justice in this influential role. You are a role model of the UP way of life, which is underpinned by striving for excellence, giving back to society and living a life that is ethical, understanding and caring towards everyone. Congratulations once again.”

Group picture of Professor Themba Mosia, UP Interim Vice-Chancellor and Principal; Professor Dire Tladi, UP professor of international law and Future Africa's Research Chair in Global Equity in Africa; Professor Loretta Feris, Vice-Principal: Academic; and Professor Sunil Maharaj, Vice-Principal for Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Education. Prof Mosia is handing Prof Tladi a silver gift bag as the two also shake hands.

Professor Themba Mosia, UP Interim Vice-Chancellor and Principal; Professor Dire Tladi, UP professor of international law and Future Africa's Research Chair in Global Equity in Africa; Professor Loretta Feris, Vice-Principal: Academic; and Professor Sunil Maharaj, Vice-Principal for Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Education, at the ceremony.

Prof Tladi, an alumnus of UP, is also a recipient of the National Research Foundation South African Research Chairs Initiative of International Constitutional Law, and is the inaugural holder of the Future Africa Research Chair in Global Equity in Africa. He held several key positions within the field of international law, and served as Chair of the UN International Law Commission, which made contributions to the ICJ. His was also a legal advisor to the South African mission in New York and a special advisor to the South African foreign minister.

“I had always wanted this position, but I always thought I would have to apply or request for the government to nominate me in about three or four years’ time,” Prof Tladi said. “Instead, I received a phone call from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in March this year, and the phone call was to the effect that the president was considering nominating someone. Usually, one might expect the president to ramp it through, and we’d find out in the newspapers that somebody had been nominated, and that would have been my chance gone. But President Cyril Ramaphosa decided to hold an open process to find somebody.” 

Prof Tladi added that he is grateful to everyone who worked hard to ensure that he received all the support he needed.

“I am grateful to the University of Pretoria because it is my home, and it will always be my home,” he said. “UP is not just a paycheque; it is not a job or a place of work for me. I came here as a child in 1994 and I grew up here. UP is a place that will always be special to me, and there are so many contributions that this University has made to get me to this position. Thank you for this; thank you for everything.”

Prof Mosia said UP aims to produce graduates who are critical and creative thinkers, working across disciplines to discover knowledge and find solutions to some of society’s most pressing concerns, amid global complexities that require remarkable problem-solving, and that Prof Tladi proved to be just that.

“These issues are too sizeable to deal with individually, but, when tackled collectively and through partnerships that pool expertise and resources and foster learning, tangible results become achievable,” Prof Mosia said.

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