Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ) recently hosted its inaugural court shadowing programme.
SLSJ is a South African student organisation dedicated to protecting human rights, preventing discrimination and promoting social justice and the rule of law. The society was formed in partnership with students of various South African universities with the aim of transforming legal education and access to justice.
The practical legal experience initiative was supported by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and saw 60 third and fourth-year Law students shadow court proceedings at the Durban Magistrate’s Court. SLJS Chairperson, Mr Masivuye Ndamase said the experience provided valuable insights for the students who aspire to pursue a career in the judiciary.
‘The experience is of great value for Law students as it gave them an opportunity to experience the reality of being a judge or a court magistrate so that they gauge if they are suitable for this legal profession. We had initially planned to have 100 students participate in this programme, however, the court could only grant us three days but we plan to run this initiative throughout the semester so that every student can get a chance to participate,’ he said.
Regional Magistrate and Administrator of the South African Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges (SAC-IAWJ), Ms Pearl Andrews applauded the organisation for being proactive in its pursuit and further encouraged students to participate in similar opportunities.
‘Such programmes are important in supplementing students’ theoretical knowledge and offer an insight into how the law works in practice. This helps students understand the work of the court, the nature of the services offered by judicial officers and the role of the court in dispensing justice,’ she said.
For third-year student, Ms Sarisha Harrysharan and final-year student, Mr Nhlanhla Notha, seeing law in action was different from what they had seen on TV shows.
‘This experience provided me with an opportunity to learn about court manners and procedures that must be followed for an effective court operation. It was amazing to see how a prosecutor critically analysed statements from witnesses,’ said Harrysharan.
Notha added that having a realistic perspective of court procedures will be valuable in shaping his legal career: ‘The court’s judges and attorneys provided us with important wisdom pertaining to the vital qualities that we as Law students must acquire or develop on a daily basis so as to succeed in the future as young aspiring lawyers.’
Words: Samukelisiwe Cele and Thandiwe Jumo