A team of learners coached by the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Faculty of Law has won the International Schools Moot Court Competition in Poland.
The eight team members are from schools in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape and represent different quintiles (levels of fee-paying schools). These learners were the national winners of the South African National Schools Moot Court Competition. During a moot court, learners play the role of lawyers arguing both sides of a fictional case, as if they are in a real court. The final rounds of the South African competition are held in the Constitutional Court.
The South African National Schools Moot Court Competition is a joint initiative of the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, under the guidance of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), and is supported by the University of Pretoria. It was initiated 10 years ago by Professor Christof Heyns, Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, when he was Dean of the Faculty. Since then it has grown into a global competition.
“We are delighted by how well our learners and students do in moot court competitions globally, year after year,” Prof Heyns said. “Moots are a wonderful way of learning through role-playing. The fact that our young people do so well augers well for the quality of our lawyers in the future, and for our legal system.”
He said it is a “great feather in the cap of the government that they have made moot courts part of the school curriculum. Many other countries, including Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, with the possibility of Argentina, Nepal and Sri Lanka, are now following the lead of South Africa and are also starting moots. We are working closely with them, but we continue to believe that in the world competition the South African learners will continue to be the team to beat.”
All high schools in the country are invited to enter a team of two learners into the South African National Schools Moot Court Competition. The learners then argue both sides of the case provided.
The international schools moot court requires teams from different countries to argue a hypothetical set of facts as if they are appearing before the International Criminal Court. This year’s theme was ‘Scene of Conflict over the past decade in Tabanath’, with learners presenting their arguments on crimes against humanity in the form of deportation or the forced transfer of a population. The SA team competed against Bulgaria, Romania, Mongolia, St Maarten, USA, and Venezuela. South Africa defeated Team USA from New York City in the final round. Judges from the International Criminal Court presided over the final round.
This is the second time that South Africa has won this competition, having last won it in 2016. In 2012 South Africa finished in second place.
Prior to their participation in the international moot court competition, Team SA received training for a week from senior law students and academics from UP’s Faculty of Law. This entailed an introductory lecture on International Criminal Law, drafting of legal arguments, and oral presentations. The team’s coaches were Nyambeni Davhana, an associate at UP, and Keketso Kgomosotho, a Candidate Attorney at Baker McKenzie.