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UP Law moot court team off to Washington after taking national honours for fourth time

Posted on March 14, 2019

The University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Law recently took top honours at the 2019 Philip C Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition national championship, which was hosted at the University of Johannesburg.

This was the fourth consecutive year that the UP team was crowned national champions, having defending the title against the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Johannesburg. Coached by Gift Kgomosotho, the team won all the preliminary rounds and prevailed in the final round of the Jessup, as it is also known, with a unanimous bench.

Franciscus Crouse (LLB II), Ashley Makgatho (LLB IV), Simon Motshweni (LLB III) and Matikomborera Nyamadzi (LLB III) made up this year’s team which will go on to represent South Africa at the international rounds in Washington, DC at the end of March. Last year’s team finished fifth out of more than 600 law faculties from around the world. They also won the Alona E Evans award as well as the coveted Richard R Baxter award for their written submissions.

The Jessup is the largest moot court competition in the world, with participants from more than 500 law schools in more than 95 countries, and is a simulation of a fictional dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations. This year’s case deals with state responsibility, environmental and wildlife law, human rights and traditional knowledge.

“As the biggest moot court competition in the world, it is expected to be by far the most difficult,” said Ashley Makgatho, who represented the university in 2017 at the international competition in Washington, where the team finished 16th. “There are invaluable skills and experience to be gained considering the level at which you are required to engage with existing and abstract public international law – there must be some sort of rationale behind me putting myself through this punishment twice!”

Team members Franciscus Crouse and Simon Motshweni also expressed how demanding yet fulfilling the experience was. “My journey with the Jessup has been filled with growth, joy, dedication and acquiring the most interesting and valuable knowledge. While it has been gruelling and challenging, it has also been rewarding and meaningful. It is the opportunity of a lifetime and I would be heartbroken if I could not go to Washington to compete against the best young legal minds in the world.”

“The Jessup has offered me an unparalleled learning experience, allowing me to better develop my oral advocacy skills and research skills – which are critical in legal practice everywhere,” said Simon Motshweni.

Having coached the university’s previous three Jessup teams, Gift Kgomosotho says he has “every confidence that this year’s team will do exceedingly well. They have demonstrated an underdog spirit that is grounded in hard work and song and, at other times, in dark humour. The commitment of this year’s team is unprecedented and a true representation of the Jessup spirit.”

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