Two UP alumni win the LLM and LLB categories of the 2020 South African Law Reform Commission Legal Essay Writing Competition

Posted on August 25, 2021

Two alumni of the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Faculty of Law (UP Law) were recently announced winners of the LLM and LLB Categories of the 2020 South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) Legal Essay Writing Competition. 

Tshephisho Somo is a 2016 UP LLB graduate and currently a UP LLM student, while Nicholas Herd is a 2020 UP Law LLB graduate.

The SALRC hopes to engage young legal minds in generating innovative ideas on issues of law reform through the Legal Writing Competition, which is dedicated to the memory of the late Chief Justice Pius Nkonzo Langa.

Somo’s article, titled ‘Informal trade: Underlying tensions between national and municipal legislatory frameworks and constitutional values’, provides a synopsis of the infringement of the fundamental constitutional rights of informal traders perpetrated by government officials. The article illustrates the lack of protection provided by national legislation and municipal by-laws, the similarities between the powers granted to government officials in the informal sector since the democratic dispensation and during the apartheid era; and the role of the judiciary when providing remedies to aggrieved parties.

UP LLB graduate and current a UP LLM student Tshephisho Somo.

The article forms part of a larger research project into intra-regional trade on the African continent.

“It is unfortunate that a sector consisting of some of the most vulnerable groups of society is haggard by insufficient policy considerations, lack of accountability and inadequate protection for those operating in the sector. More often than not, the courts must step in to enforce basic principles of legality against government officials,” said Somo. 

“I am hopeful that this paper will contribute towards the already existing research in this field and will, hopefully, in the very near future result in a reform of the current legislatory framework.”

Somo congratulated Herd, with whom she worked while serving as a senior judge of the UP Constitutional Tribunal, saying it was  “an honour to accept this award alongside Nicholas”.

“I would be remiss if I did not thank the University and UP Law for nurturing my curiosity and providing ample opportunities for me to develop as a legal academic and professional,” she said.

Somo completed her LLB degree with distinction in 2016 and won multiple module awards, moot court competitions and also represented the country at the 2016 BRICS Legal Forum held in India during her undergraduate studies.


UP Law LLB graduate Nicholas Herd.

Herd’s winning paper, ‘Watching The World Burn? Do Public Functionaries have a General, Constitutional Obligation to Investigate and Remedy Suspected Impropriety in Their Remit?’, assesses whether state functionaries have a duty under constitutional law to investigate wrongdoing and irregularities committed on their watch.

“It is my hope that an increased focus on the issues raised in the paper – especially from the academy and institutions such as the South African Law Reform Commission – might result in action… that state capture and social (in)justice will provide impetus towards law reform and good governance in ensuring the state’s constitutional duties are fulfilled,” said Herd.

He said the paper was derivative of his final-year LLB dissertation. “So, in particular and as before, I express my respect, admiration and gratitude to and for Dr Melanie Murcott for being a rigorous, instructive, patient and kind supervisor, mentor and supporter.”

He also congratulated Somo. “It is a distinct privilege to win alongside Tshephisho. I have no doubt that the University at large is extremely proud of her achievement.

Herd has been recognised for his work before, receiving the National Yunus Mahomed Public Interest Award (YMPIA) for Law/Business/Ethics for his article in the 2019 Pretoria Student Law Review, ‘Should the flag fit, or must we acquit?’.

A proud Dean of UP Law, Professor Elsabe Schoeman, extended congratulations to the two UP Law alumni.  “We are incredibly proud of your achievements, Tshephisho and Nicholas, as your hard work has paid off again.  It is at times like these, where five UP Law alumni (these SALRC first prizes and the Yunus Mahomed Awards) in one month walk away with their pens as legal swords held high, that I realise and know why our students remain the preferred employees in the labour market. Also, it is invigorating that these students have transferred their passion for law and justice, knowledge, skills and winning attitudes to their peers. Thank you for carrying the UP Law legacy with you.”

- Author UP Law/ Elzet Hurter

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