UP honours Professor Trynie Boezaart for 40 years of service

Posted on August 14, 2020

Prof Boezaart spoke to Elzet Hurter about her beginnings as a lawyer, and about her contribution to UP Law, the Centre for Child Law (CCL), academia, and to law and justice in general.

National Women’s Day was commemorated on 9 August, as a day when South Africans celebrate phenomenal women and the impact they have had on their communities, the country and beyond our borders. This is an opportune time for UP to tip its hat to Professor Trynie Boezaart, who has served the Faculty of Law (UP Law) diligently for more than 40 years.

EH: Why did you decide to study law?

TB: I had considered a few options during my matric year, and had I followed my heart, I would have studied Mathematics as I simply loved the subject. But it was the injustice that I witnessed around me that convinced me to take responsibility and at least try to do something to change the way people lived.

I approached my studies very cautiously and enrolled for a BProc degree at UP. My reasoning at that stage was that an attorney is the first port of call and perhaps best suited to reach out to clients – those that were denied justice and suffered injustice. I converted the BProc to BA (Law) at the end of my first year because it became clear that an LLB would open more doors. I was one of two students that were awarded the LLB degree cum laude in my year of graduation.

EH: How many women were in your final-year class?

TB: There were 36 final-years and seven of them were women. In those days, it was definitely not commonplace for women to study law. Though it was well known on campus that it was a first for the Faculty of Law to have delivered so many female LLB graduates in one year. 

EH: Which law lecturer inspired you during your studies at UP, and why? 

TB: There were very few full-time lecturers in those days. Between 1976 and 1977, when I did my LLB, most of our lecturers were members of the General Council of the Bar and lectured after-hours on a part-time basis. My most entertaining class was Criminal Law with Professor Kobus van Rooyen, so much so that significant others often accompanied students to share the experience.

Another lecturer that really captivated me with his sheer brilliance was Judge Dion van Zyl. He taught Roman Law on a Saturday morning at 07:00, and he managed to bring the School of Orleans, the Middle Ages and Latin texts to life – even at that hour and even when the rest of the student body was celebrating Rag in the streets outside campus!

EH: Tell us a bit about your time as a state prosecutor. 

TB: I practised as a state prosecutor for less than a year. Most of us had bursaries and had to work for the state to “repay” those bursaries after completing our LLB degrees. I hated that job, but with the wisdom of hindsight, I realise that my sensitivity regarding children in prisons, corporal punishment and the like stems from the experience I gained during that time.

EH: Why did you decide to be more involved in academia? 

TB: I wanted to know more and delve deeper, and what I saw of the practice of law in the magistrates’ courts was less than inspiring. I started out as a lecturer in the Department of Private Law at Unisa in 1979.

EH: What does your current role as Emeritus Professor at UP Law entail? 

TB: I was invited to lecture in the LLM (Child Law) programme in February and March this year. I was also nominated as the internal examiner for an LLD thesis. In addition, I am supervising an LLD student who will submit her thesis towards the end of the year. I completed the manuscript of the seventh edition of the Law of Persons. Furthermore, I am involved in Revision Service 11 of the Commentary on the Children’s Act as a co-editor, and am working on a chapter that should be published in a book on Article 5 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child towards the end of the year.

EH: What would you say are the achievements of the Centre for Child Law (CCL) – which you established in 1998 – in particular, its first 10 years when you were Director?

TB: Gratitude is the overarching sentiment upon reflection of the establishment of the centre and its first 10 years. The CCL will always be close to my heart, with all the dedicated people, projects, books and experiences that it entailed.

The main aim of the CCL was to establish a centre of expertise to promote the best interests of children in law and policy by means of interdepartmental, inter-university and international collaboration. The vision was to create a space and opportunities for dedicated people to make a difference in the lives of children.

We have contributed to developing child law scientifically as an academic field, and in-depth, groundbreaking research linking local and international networks has been published in books, journals, reports and comments on working papers and projects of the South African Law Reform Commission. Many of these publications have been cited by the courts and have prompted law reform. The CCL has also played a significant role in building on expertise in child law by developing a cohort of specialised child law lawyers, both in academia and in practice.

Over the years, the focus of the centre has shifted in line with the evolving development of child law, our understanding of children’s rights and the dynamics in our society. What has remained the same is that by promoting the best interests of children in South Africa, the CCL stills strives to improve quality of life so all children in the country can fulfil their potential.

EH: Over your 40 years at UP Law, what other highlights can you speak of? 

TB: In 1980, I was appointed as a senior lecturer in the Department of Private Law at UP, and obtained my doctorate in 1984. The following year I became the first woman to be appointed as an Associate Professor in UP’s Faculty of Law.

My monograph was published in 1987 and I was promoted to full Professor in 1990. In those years, UP introduced English as a language of instruction and many of us authored textbooks in order to provide the exact same text to both English- and Afrikaans-speaking students. This explained why I co-authored the first edition of the Law of Persons (published by Juta) in 1995.

I was appointed as Head of the Department of Private Law in 2007 and also did a stint as an acting judge in the North Gauteng High Court in 2008.

Other highlights were the Exceptional Achiever Awards that I received from the Council of UP, the B2 NRF-rating that I currently hold and the fact that the book Child Law in South Africa (published by Juta) made the final round of the top six of the 2018/19 St Petersburg International Legal Forum Private Law Prize. I was one of the authors and the editor.

- Author Elzet Hurter

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