UP law student Nicholas Herd officially receives 2020 Yunus Mahomed Public Interest Award

Posted on December 01, 2020

The Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria (UP) is proud to announce that final-year LLB student Nicholas Herd officially received the National Yunus Mahomed Public Interest Award (YMPIA) for Law/Business/Ethics during a recent virtual event that included a panel discussion. Herd won the national award for his article in the 2019 Pretoria Student Law Review,  ‘Should the flag fit, or must we acquit?’

The discussion, which was moderated by Christopher Carl Gevers from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and hosted by Judge Dhaya Pillay under the auspices of Kagiso Capital (Pty) Ltd and Kagiso Trust, was themed ‘An analysis of freedom of expression in South Africa with a specific reference to hate speech’. Herd was joined on the panel by LLB student Kate Dewey and MPhil candidate Izu Sichinga from the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Herd had the opportunity to discuss his thoughts and stance on his winning article, after which there was a discussion between Herd, Dewey and Sichinga.

At the conclusion of the discussion, Herd reiterated his gratitude and surprise at being selected for the award, and thanked Kagiso Trust and Kagiso Capital (Pty) Ltd, in particular Lebo Mosiane, chief operations officer of Kagiso Capital (Pty) Ltd, for their hospitality at Kagiso's headquarters. Herd was especially appreciative of the panel’s incisive engagement and the diversity in perspectives on the underlying questions of what should be regulated as – and how the law should go about regulating – hate speech under the South African Constitution. Herd remarked that he thoroughly enjoyed the panel discussion.

Judge Dhaya Pillay, Chair of the YMPIA, thanked the panel for a riveting discussion. She also provided a brief overview of the YMPIA. “Established in 2013, the YMPIA for published articles on Public Interest Law and Business Ethics strives to encourage students to study and practice law in a manner that promotes the advancement of the public interest, transparency and accountability, to cultivate and entrench democracy and best practices.”  

She continued, “What was not hate speech before WWI and WWII and during apartheid is now categorised as hate speech.” She reasoned that law alone is not a driver of transformation and that transformation should be organic. “It should be promoted and happen from the ground upwards.”   

“We have to mobilise people to change their beliefs to the greater good of our Constitution,” she said.

Judge Pillay cautioned against “coming down too hard on people when they are using their right to the freedom of expression”.  She said that if “one does not want to drive expression and differences of beliefs underground, it will be counterproductive in the end to the aims of a constitutional democracy. We should encourage South Africans to ventilate grievances and promote and encourage public dialogue.” In her view, “this is how South Africans should deal with freedom of expression, in order to create a balanced society”.

Judge Pillay also thanked the members of the Award Committee, which includes Professor André Boraine (UP),  Christopher Carl Gevers (UKZN), Professor Danie Brand (University of the Free State) and Professor Hanri Mostert (UCT).  She extended her appreciation to all involved in the management of the competition, in particular Kagiso Trust and Kagiso Capital (Pty) Ltd, and specifically Rose Mahlophe for coordinating the event.  She also expressed her “appreciation to the stalwarts of the struggle for democracy and those still working towards democracy”.

- Author Elzet Hurter

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