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Law Academic Completes Inaugural Acting High Court Judge Tenure

February 09, 2017

Professor Nomthandazo Ntlama.

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
UKZN’s Professor Nomthandazo Ntlama served as an acting judge of the Bisho High Court in the Eastern Cape in November and December last year.

During her tenure on the Bench, Ntlama - who grew up in the Eastern Cape - heard civil and criminal matters and dealt with case flow management, an experience she describes as an ‘eye opening one’.

‘I was fascinated by the silent rules and procedures of adjudication which I found very exciting. The high level of discipline a judge is required to exercise in the application of the law in promoting the integrity of the judicial process is indicative of the progress that has been made since the attainment of democracy,’ said Ntlama.

‘I was thrilled to preside over matters in court with the counsels arguing their cases before me. I enjoyed the role of getting points of clarity and ensuring that adherence to the values of the new dispensation were upheld.’

Ntlama’s first judgment: Ndlovu v State (CA&R14/2016) [20160 ZAECBHC involved a ‘stay- in nanny’ who kidnapped a three-year-old girl holding her for a month while she demanded a ransom. The case received wide media coverage and gave Ntlama a taste of justice in action.

‘This was exciting as it took me out of my enclave and expanded my abilities to apply the law in a concrete situation and to analyse evidence and apply the law to reach a fair and just decision,’ said Ntlama.

‘My background as an academic enriched my theoretical perspective of the law into a practical reality. I will always treasure the experience and now have more to offer my students.’ 

Thandiwe Jumo

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