A team from the University of Pretoria (UP) Moot Society in the Faculty of Law has won the 2020 African Regional Rounds of the Manfred Lachs International Space Law Moot Court Competition. The UP Law team, consisting of Komela Letsoalo and Nicholas du Toit (both LLB III) and coached by Simon Motshweni (LLB IV), was announced the winner of the African Regional Rounds on 3 July 2020.
The 2020 Competition focuses on the Case Concerning Jurisdiction and Control in Outer Space, Space Situational Awareness, and Orbital Debris.
In his reaction to his team’s victory, coach Motshweni said: “We are learning to celebrate our victories even when faced with a global pandemic. For the stars we aim to reach, for space is our next destination.” He also expressed his appreciation for all those who were involved in the memorial preparation phase of the Competition. “Special thanks to my former coach, [UP Law alumna] Ruvimbo Samanga, and the Office of the Dean of Law. Overall, I am extremely proud of the team for this achievement.”
Since its inception by the International Institute of Space Law in 1992, the Competition has grown to cover four regions: North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Africa. For the first time since joining in 2012, the continent of Africa, represented by a team from the University of Pretoria (Motshweni and Simon Botha led by Ruvimbo Samanga and Lawrence-John Maralack), won the World Finals in 2018.
The Competition is a simulation of a fictional dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations. The Competition aims to promote the interest, involvement and knowledge of space law among students by providing a fair and competitive environment for the exchange of thoughts and the deepening of understanding of space law. The Competition encourages further development on the subject matter of space law in the curriculum of academic institutions and assists participating countries in developing technical legal capacity by preparing the next generation of space lawyers.
The Africa Regional Rounds are usually hosted in Pretoria, where student teams from universities in Africa compete to represent the continent at the World Finals, which are customarily held to coincide with the International Astronautical Congress (IAC). The 2020 World Finals were scheduled from 12 to 16 October 2020 to coincide with the 71st IAC in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the African Regional Rounds were assessed on the basis of memorials (heads of arguments) submitted by the various teams, and plans are for the World Rounds also to continue virtually.
This year’s competition was hosted by the South African Department of Trade and Industry and featured five participating universities. The University of Calabar (Nigeria) placed second, with three universities in combined third place, namely, the University of Benin (Nigeria), Makelle University (Ethiopia) and Niger Delta University (Nigeria).