Ms Sanelisiwe Ngobo celebrating her LLM achievement with her mother Ms Ncamisile Ngcobo and brother Mr Thabiso Ngcobo.

Ms Sanelisiwe Ngobo celebrating her LLM achievement with her mother Ms Ncamisile Ngcobo and brother Mr Thabiso Ngcobo.

A Graduation Story

he long and winding road to graduation has many challenges along the way. For some students it’s tougher and more demanding than it is for others for a variety of reasons.

Here, UKZN Master of Laws graduate Ms Saneliswe Ngcobo tells her graduation and early world of work story:

I come from very humble beginnings. My father passed away when I was in Grade 7 and my mother was a domestic worker. I attended government schools in Umlazi and from Grade 10 to 12, I did extremely well, with my best friend, Thandeka Duma, and I studying together and challenging one another for the top position in class.

In matric we both decided to study Law and I became the first person in my family to attend University.

I enrolled at UKZN’s Howard College for a Bachelor of Law degree and in my second year, I was awarded a certificate from the Golden Key International Honour Society in recognition of outstanding scholastic achievement and excellence. However, the undergraduate degree of Law was not easy at all and I was always very aware that I had to work extremely hard, especially since I had received funding from NSFAS. I think it was that uneasy awareness that pushed me to do my best.

After completing my degree, I was employed by Tomlinson Mnguni James Attorneys as a candidate attorney and placed in the litigation department. I benefited from a passionate team of attorneys who had built up extensive experience and earned an excellent reputation for dispute resolution both in the high court and magistrate’s courts, and before tribunals. I worked very hard and after my Articles of Clerkship the company retained me on appointment as a junior associate. The firm was awarded a tender to handle litigation matters from a large organisation, with much of the business involving maritime matters. I then decided to enrol part-time for a Master of Laws degree in Maritime Law to extend my level of education.

I was later employed by the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society as a Regulatory Affairs Officer. My responsibility at the Law Society now is to deal with complaints lodged with the Society, submit those to the Complaints Committee, refer decisions made by the Complaints Committee to Council, prosecution in inquiries, interviews, inspections, suspensions, strike- offs, appointments of Curator Bonis applications, contempt of court proceedings and matters related to holding out as an attorney. I am also responsible for delegating duties to staff and monitoring that they have completed them.

Studying my masters part-time is not easy at all since you have university and work deadlines to meet. My masters was course work done over five semesters. Throughout my LLM journey, I learned from senior colleagues and at one stage we were honoured to be lectured by a Judge and Senior Counsels in the field.

My thesis was titled: A Comparative Study of the Paper and Electronic Bills of Lading in South African Law. My study was supervised by Maritime Law expert Ms Dusty-Lee Donnelly.

The main problem concerning electronic bills of lading is that the laws applicable to sea transportation documents mainly require them to be tangible and written, whereas electronic bills of lading do not have to comply with these requirements. The study was therefore conducted to compare the extent to which an electronic bill of lading might be recognised as legally valid under South African law.

It is important to remember that whatever path you choose, there will always be obstacles. However, that does not mean you cannot do what you want to. It means you must be able to create a balance between work, family and school/university. It takes a multitude of skills to accomplish these roles. You must be disciplined, dedicated and able to manage your time accordingly.

My intention is to get an exposure in the Maritime industry and then enrol for a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

But right now I am ecstatic about getting my Master’s Degree in Maritime. My dream has come true!

Words: Saneliswe Ngcobo