Cum Laude for Seventeen School of Law Candidates

UKZN Law Cum Laude graduates
Cum Laude for Seventeen School of Law Candidates

A total of 17 LLB candidates from UKZN’s School of Law graduated cum laude, a feat the School celebrated during its Graduation ceremonies. 

The distinguished graduates are Ms Keandra Anthony, Mr Rickert Diedericks, Ms Sanam Govender, Ms Kevlyn Greaver, Mr Pranav Hiralall, Ms Rabia Hussain, Mr Mfundo Khanyile, Ms Nontobeko Khumalo, Ms Kayla Moodley, Ms Revani Moopanar, Ms Shaazia Naidoo, Ms Theshaya Naidoo, Ms Nosipho Ndlovu, Ms Zimatha Ngalawa, Ms Nokulunga Ngcobo, Ms Nimita Perumal and Mr Yaseelan Pillay. 

While studying Law might not have been Diedericks’ first choice, this achievement proves he made the right decision. ‘An LLB was challenging to say the least. I had not studied in about two years, and getting back into the swing of things took some getting used to. However, I quickly adapted – not that the studying sphere gives you many choices to do otherwise. It was full of proud moments and moments of beating myself up for not attaining what I sought to, but that’s part of the journey, you can’t succeed at everything. It’s the people you surround yourself with that keep you going.’ 

While he does not have set plans for the future, he is excited about the possibilities. ‘Keeping your mindset on achieving something for four years straight and then accomplishing it, I’d imagine it can only be compared to the behemoth task of conquering Mount Everest – well, that’s how it feels to me anyway. It would be premature to state this early on in my career what my end goal would be. What I do know is that wherever I am, and whatever I am doing, I will give 100% of myself to ensure that I grow and flourish,’ he said. 

With aspirations of becoming an attorney specialising in tax, Govender is currently pursuing a Master of Laws (LLM) in Taxation after securing a Postgraduate Scholarship. ‘This qualification has emphasised practicality and a holistic view of the world. I chose my master’s programme not only because I enjoy it, but because it offered the opportunity for me to be a well-rounded and practical attorney,’ she said. The multi-talented classically trained singer – who plays the piano – also works as a Graduate Trainee Assistant at the School of Law’s Howard College campus. She says hard work, a love for reading, and having a strong support system are what got her to the finish line. ‘This qualification challenged and pushed me to my limits but I gained as much as I gave. Switching to online learning and then returning to on-campus tests after two-and-a-half years was nerve-wrecking. I will forever be grateful for the group of girls I met in the Law Library in my first year (of study) who have been there for all the good days and bad days, no matter what. My parents and grandparents are extremely proud of me. I was fortunate enough to be able to tell three of my grandparents about my achievements. Unfortunately, my maternal grandfather passed away a month before my graduation, but I am so grateful he witnessed my achievements throughout my degree.’ 

Greaver says graduating cum laude after studying during a pandemic is proof that hard work and dedication pays off. ‘Obtaining this degree has indeed been a challenge which I am so proud to have overcome. At least two of the four years of the degree were completed under the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic which although challenging, also sparked great resilience. It is a real testament to our capability and unique drive that I’m sure we will bring to any profession that we enter into. I’m incredibly blessed to have always received the support of my family and loved ones throughout my schooling and studies,’ she said. With aspirations of becoming an attorney, Greaver is excited about future possibilities. ‘This degree is more than just a qualification or the gateway to a noble profession, it inspires a lifestyle that is founded on perseverance, passion and humility. A career in Law is such an easy choice for me, I naturally gravitated towards it because not only is it an empowering profession, but it enables you to be better as a person so that you can touch many lives.’ 

For Hiralall growing up in a family where both parents are legal professionals is what sparked his passion for Law. 

‘Both my late father and my mother are legal professionals – my father was a well-known attorney and my mother is an attorney and conveyancer. In fact, my parents founded Rajesh Hiralall Attorneys Incorporated around four years prior to my birth. As a child, I used to spend my Saturdays at my father’s practice, where I would assist by answering phone calls and arranging appointments. Over time, I watched the practice expand and developed a deep interest in the field of Law,’ he said. 

With plans of pursuing a Diploma in Conveyancing Law and Practice, Hiralall is currently in the process of completing his articles of clerkship. 

‘This qualification will allow me to expand my legal expertise, and it aligns with my passion for real estate. I am excited about the possibilities that this diploma could open up, and I am confident that it will be a valuable asset in my career,’ he said. 

For Hussain pursuing an LLB has not only enriched her budding career, as she is currently an Academic Development Officer (ADO) for the School of Law in Pietermaritzburg as well as through her community engagement work with the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and UNICEF UKZN. 

‘Being an ADO has allowed me to delve into lecturing which is growing on me as it is extremely fulfilling to help other Law students who face the same challenges that I did. I aim to build my students’ legal knowledge and character to allow them to excel in this field. Engaging in community upliftment initiatives was the best part of campus life as it gave me purpose. Volunteering also opened my eyes to the problems people face on the ground on a daily basis and how I can use my legal qualification to address these problems as the law is the ultimate tool for change.’ 

Hussain is currently completing an LLM in Business Law. ‘My LLB degree has laid a stable foundation for me to broaden my corporate commercial law knowledge during the course of my LLM. I hope to give back to academia as I thoroughly enjoy it.’ 

Khanyile is already reaping the fruits of acquiring an LLB as he is currently a candidate legal practitioner at ENSafrica’s Mine and Occupational Health and Safety Department. ‘This qualification has been very instrumental in my transition from being a university student to being a candidate legal practitioner as I have moved from Durban to Johannesburg to serve my articles,’ he said, adding that his academic degrees have also exposed him to various professions and interesting and complex legal issues. ‘I’ve always known that I wanted to pursue Law, even after I didn’t qualify to study for an LLB straight after high school. I then pursued a different qualification hoping that I would then meet the requirements to study for an LLB. Long story short, it happened, and I was given the opportunity to follow my lifelong dream as this qualification presents vast opportunities for one to grow both in career and intellectual ability. And for that, it is one of the best qualifications to hold.’ 

Khumalo says this qualification helped her discover her passion for labour law which she is exploring further through her master’s. ‘During my studies, I was not sure which area of Law I was the most passionate about, nor did I know whether I would study further after completing my undergrad. Then I received an invite to the South African Society for Labour Lawyers (SASLAW) Conference after achieving the highest mark in Labour Law across both the Howard College and Pietermaritzburg campuses. The event was so wonderful and inspirational leading me to fall in love with labour law and to pursue my master’s in that field,’ she said. The multitalented top achiever is also a theatre performer and member for of the Durban Symphonic Choir. ‘Beyond academics, I have participated in a lot of cultural activities throughout primary and high school. I love the performing arts and have performed in many plays and musicals as well as sang in a few choirs and love keeping up with my creative side as a budding lawyer. What motivates me to keep learning and growing is my quest to always learn more about myself and be proud of the girl I was and the woman I am becoming.’ 

Moodley – who recently moved from Durban to Johannesburg to serve her articles at international law firm, White and Case – says studying for an LLB has been a rewarding experience. ‘I went through a difficult time during my studies due to a personal challenge and this could have changed my career goals. Through the help of God, I was able to remain focused and went on to complete my degree, and the most important thing I’ve learnt is that challenges do not define who you are. They test your endurance, but it makes you even stronger hence I am very grateful for the support of my mother and brother who kept me motivated, they are extremely proud of my achievements.’ 

She plans on completing her attorney’s admission board examinations in the near future and becoming an admitted attorney. 

Moopanar – who has also relocated from Durban to Sandton, Johannesburg, where she is working as a Candidate Legal Practitioner – plans to further her studies. ‘Studying a Law degree is intellectually challenging and you will always be kept on your toes! From learning new things every day to learning about specific applicable rules, you are guaranteed to develop a range of multifaceted skills. I hope to pursue my master’s degree in Corporate Law while I continue to learn, enhance, and broaden my skill set. I would also like to explore the non-traditional side of law such as legal technology,’ she said. 

For Shaazia, being a top achiever was rewarded with multiple Deans’ Commendations, Merit Certificates, UKZN academic bursaries, as well as participation in the Ellie Newman Memorial Moot Court Competition semi-finals. These achievements kept her motivated and strengthened her confidence. ‘An LLB is definitely a worthwhile qualification to have. It opens many doors and opportunities; there is a myriad of uses for this qualification, not just practising law. In addition, you gain an education that you can apply to your everyday life, whether it’s knowing your labour rights or how credit works,’ she said. 

Shaazia is currently serving her articles at TMJ Attorneys and is excited about future possibilities. ‘I am fortunate enough to have the freedom to explore more than one area of law and find my niche, so my future plans are not very specific. Although I do want to practice as an attorney and would like to obtain an LLM, I am keeping my options open. Of course, this qualification is a pre-requisite for an LLM and being admitted as an attorney, but even if I do choose to follow a new route, I have the legal knowledge for many other professions.’ 

Theshaya’s list of academic achievements includes being the recipient of six awards, including Top Third-year Law Student (PMB) at the School of Law’s 2023 Student Awards Ceremony; an Emma Smith Overseas Scholarship which recognises exceptional academic performance in 2018; as well as a Werksmans Bursary in 2019. ‘I obtained a total of 25 distinctions and 11 merit certificates for my undergraduate degrees. This achievement shows that with hard work and dedication, anyone can achieve their goals. I faced significant mental health challenges last year which included depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. With the help of a psychologist from Student Support Services, I was able to manage these challenges and still achieve academic success,’ she said. 

Ndlovu is proud that she made her dream of graduating cum laude a reality. ‘There have been a few memorable moments during my studies, from being on the Dean’s list every year, to receiving numerous awards, and bagging some scholarships along the way. The one that stands out for me was when I was given the opportunity to go on International Exchange during my second year in 2020,’ she said. Although the outbreak of COVID-19 ruined things for Ndlovu, it didn’t deter her aspirations of graduating cum laude. ‘Even though I ended up not going on the exchange programme, being chosen was a huge honour for me because it showed me that my hard work was being recognised and appreciated. This definitely lit a fire under me and kept me motivated. I’m very thankful to be here today and able to say “I did it”! I’m currently pursuing my master’s and also employed by the School of Law to work as an Academic Development Officer (ADO), which allows me to assist current LLB students navigate tricky aspects of their studies. I know I definitely appreciated all the help I could get when I was in their shoes, so I’m more than happy to pay it forward!’ 

Growing up in the small rural area of Kwacele, near Scottburgh, Ngcobo had many questions about the law which motivated her to pursue a career in Law. ‘Many things were happening around me that made me question the law such as “are we free?”, “can we count on the justice system to protect us, especially from the powerful?”, and “who benefits from the law the most?”. Most people have given up on the justice system and the idea of freedom, but I chose to pursue Law and know more about it. I also love helping people, and Law is a career and field that benefits society in many ways.’ The first in her family to graduate with a university degree, Ngcobo is proud that she not only made it but she graduated cum laude. ‘My family is very proud of me and my achievements. They are proud and happy that I managed to do something they did not get the opportunity to do, and I achieved it with flying colours. I can only hope the young ones see me as motivation and follow my example.’ 

Perumal is currently completing her practical legal training with Learning, Education and Development (LEAD). ‘A Bachelor of Laws degree is a worthwhile qualification to have, as the legal field is quite broad. There is a multitude of career paths that may be followed with an LLB degree, and not just that of an attorney/advocate. An LLB degree equips an individual with many transferable skills to succeed in any of the career paths he/she may choose to pursue. My family is extremely proud of all my achievements. They recognise all my efforts, sacrifices and hard work and applaud my successes and are always motivating me.’

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan

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