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Law Professor Plays an Active Role at UN Legal Aid Conference in Buenos Aires

December 02, 2016

Professor David McQuoid-Mason (second left) with delegates at the Conference.

Winning the annual Ellie Newman Moot Court competition, beating 320 participants by showcasing outstanding legal skills, is a sure sign that fourth-year Law student Mr Elisha Kunene is equipped for success in the legal profession.

Kunene competed in the Moot final - hosted by the School of Law in Durban - alongside finalists Ms Jolene Thompson, Mr Andile Mabaso and Mr Connor Alexander.

The finalists displayed their legal prowess in front of judges, Law School academics Professor Karthy Govender, Ms Lindiwe Maqutu, Professor Tanya Woker and Mr Vishal Surbun as well as family and friends.

A highlight at the final was third-year Law student Mr Andile Mcineka being awarded the Yunus Mohammed Public Interest Law Award by Madam Justice Dhaya Pillay for his article: “Winnie Getting the Short End of the Stick”, which was published in The Sunday Tribune.

The award recognises Mcineka’s valuable contribution to knowledge in the field of public law.

‘There was depth in his argument; he drew on judgments in a coherent manner; it was a pleasure interacting with him…’ these were some of the comments made by the judges on Kunene’s performance before his announcement as the winner which was greeted with resounding applause and a standing ovation from the audience.

‘Winning the Ellie Newman award means the world to me. It’s literally a dream come true. My time in ‘varsity has been quite difficult in a number of ways but I was determined to finish strongly and I sort of viewed this year as a rebuilding period,’ says Kunene.

‘Earlier in the year a good friend of mine and I won the Southern African National Debating Championships and I ranked first in the country. So I really feel like God is with me on this winning streak.’

The great debater who used his skills to coach school debating teams to generate funds for his university tuition got academic merit scholarships from UKZN for his first and second year. However, monetary challenges nearly saw Kunene being financially excluded in his second year.

‘In a remarkable turn of events I was able to stay and complete my studies thanks to a generous intervention by Norton Rose Fulbright. The firm and I parted ways this year but I will always be grateful to them and to everyone else who have contributed to keeping me going,’ he said.

Looking to the future, Kunene said: ‘I have been granted the great privilege of being accepted to clerk for Justice Raymond Zondo at the Constitutional Court next year.’  His long-term plans include becoming an advocate.

Thandiwe Jumo
Professor David McQuoid-Mason of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies presented a paper at the 2nd International Conference on Access to Justice and Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems in Buenos Aires.

The conference - held under the auspices of the Argentinian Ministry of Justice and Office of the Federal Public Protector, the International Legal Foundation, UNODC and UNDP - aimed to promote full implementation of the UN Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems (2012) and the UN Model Legal Aid in Criminal Proceedings Law (2015), particularly for Latin American countries.

McQuoid-Mason was one of the International Legal Aid Experts who assisted with the drafting of the UN Principles and Guidelines as well as the UN Model Legal Aid Law which he proposed at the First UN Legal Aid Conference in Johannesburg in June 2014.

McQuoid-Mason’s paper was titled: “Challenges Faced When Seeking to Include the United Nations Principles and Guidelines’ Non-lawyer–Centred Provisions in Legal Aid Legislation for Developing Countries with Small Numbers of Lawyers”.

He also facilitated a session on: “The Role and Function of Legal Aid Boards in Administration”.

McQuoid-Mason further arranged a meeting of African Legal Aid Providers which was facilitated by Judge Dunstan Mlambo, Chair of the Board of Legal Aid South Africa, and held several side-meetings with legal aid representatives from Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Fiji and Pakistan, all of which he has helped or is assisting with their Legal Aid programmes.

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