When the judge said “Court adjourned!” it signalled the end of a Constitutional Court session sitting in Braamfontein earlier this afternoon!
This was, however, not a conventional sitting but a stage set for young legal minds to showcase their skills in front of 8 judges of the highest court in the land.
The judges were on the bench today to listen to legal arguments between two groups of learners participating in the finals of the 2019 edition of the National Moot Court Competition.
The Constitutional Court judges, led by Justice Margaret Victor, announced that the “the applicants”, represented by the four person team of Ondele Bede and Mihlali Stofile of Holy Cross High School as well as Okhela Sigwela and Lizalise Dhlomo of Hudson High School had won the competition. The winning learners come from the Eastern Cape.
Having successfully come through the Quarter and Semi-Final rounds, the two teams of 4 finalists were each given an opportunity to argue before the 8 judges who took turns to ask questions.
The participating learners were required to prepare an essay on a fictional Constitutional Court case, as both applicants and respondents to the case. The 2019 hypothetical problem statement looked at a case involving a learner’s right to wear her natural hair (dreadlocks) in a manner he perceived as neat vs her Christian School and its code of conduct which dictates that learners may only wear their natural hair for religious purposes as per the schools values.
“It is important to note the justices before you today, the Schools Moot Court presents a unique opportunity for the learners to examine and scrutinise the constitution and be faced by hypothetical situations which test real world cases and pushes learners to their limit’’ Many will dream of being lawyers, many will train, many will be mentored and many more will eventually wish to put their cases before the court, the reality is only a handful will ever make it, you as finalists in this prestigious competition have done much to achieve those dreams’’ said Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development John Jeffreys
Throughout the competition the contestants were tested on their critical and analytical thinking skills as they presented compelling arguments.
The Director for Social Cohesion Likho Bottoman said: “The competition has been growing over the years and we will continue to use it to enrich the schooling experience of our learners. It is positive to note that learners participating in the Moot Court are representative of the demographics of our country”.
Since its inception in 2011, the National School Moot Competition has managed to explore various sections of Bill of rights such as Rights, Equality, Freedom of expression and Human dignity. The competition format offers a dialogic and experiential platform for young people to experiment with the actual application of the country’s supreme constitutional law. Most importantly, the Moot Court competition is not only about the law but about exploring, understanding and bringing to the fore the founding values that undergird the country’s Constitutional Law.
The Department urges more schools to participate in the competition which has a potential of creating opportunities for learners. Previous winners have had the opportunity to travel to The Hague to compete on an international level.
The initiative also helps learners make up their minds about careers they wish to pursue once they complete Grade 12.
Elijah Mhlanga: 083 580 8275
Head of Communications
Terence Khala: 081 758 1546