UP Law shines in international space law moot court competition

Posted on October 03, 2020

A team from the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Faculty of Law represented the African continent at the 2020 World Rounds of the Manfred Lachs International Space Law Moot Court Competition.

The three-member team from the UP Moot Society was knocked out in the semi-final stages of the World Rounds by the University of Vienna (which represented the European region/Austria).

The Manfred Lachs International Space Law Moot Court Competition is an annual competition which has been going on since 1992. Africa only started participating in the competition in 2012. Four teams qualify for the World Rounds, and each team is consequently paired against another team in the semi-finals, and the winning team of each round then progresses to the finals. 

The UP Law team, consisting of Kgomela Letsoalo, Nicholas du Toit (both LLB III) and coach Simon Motshweni (LLB IV), worked for almost 11 months on the Manfred Lachs facts, which focused on the ‘Case Concerning Jurisdiction and Control in Outer Space, Space Situational Awareness, and Orbital Debris’.

In his reaction to his team’s performance at the World Rounds, Motshweni said: “I am extremely proud of the team for all their achievements. Having walked this journey before, I understand that it is not an easy one, but definitely worth taking. Although this point marks the end of one chapter, it also marks the beginning of another chapter - a chapter of greatness in the team’s future endeavours.” Motshweni also expressed his heartfelt appreciation to all those who were involved in the preparation phase of the competition, in particular the office of the Dean of Law.

Since its inception by the International Institute of Space Law in 1992, the competition has grown to cover four world regions: North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Africa. For the first time since joining the competition, the Africa continent, represented by a team from the University of Pretoria (Simon Motshweni and Simon Botha led by Ruvimbo Samanga and Lawrence-John Maralack), won the World Finals six years later, 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 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 global COVID-19 pandemic, the World Rounds proceeded virtually.

According to Nomfuneko Majaja, Chief Director of Space Affairs at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), “The competition entails a lot of hard work and dedication, as this is a specialised regime of law (the lex specialis of Space Law).”

The UP Law team had to advance through various stages to qualify for the World Rounds. Dean of the Law Faculty Professor Elsabe Schoeman congratulated the team. “UP Law is extremely proud of the team’s achievement and their stellar performance in this competition and over the years. We thank them for their hard work to keep UP Law on the global map. The UP Mooting Society remains one of our student bodies that we are extremely proud of, in particular their local and global achievements, which are a direct result of peer-training and the transference of peer-skills. We wish the team members the very best for the future – they are indeed stars with a bright future!”

UP Moot members online (far right):  Kgomela Letsoalo and Nicholas du Toit (both LLB III)

Top photo:  The UP Law team (fltr): Kgomela Letsoalo, coach Simon Motshweni and Nicholas du Toit.

Bottom photo:  The UP Law team with Ms Nomfuneko Majaja, Chief Director of Space Affairs at the Department of Trade and Industry (dti).


- Author UP Law / Elzet Hurter

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