UWC law students scoop African award in humanitarian law
A team of UWC’s top law students consisting of Yolanda Bam-Mguye, Bongiwe Mabena and Kamvelihle Rubulana has raked in a prestigious award at an African Moot (a staged court of law that makes use of mock trials and debates) competition held in Arusha, Tanzania. The ICRC International Humanitarian Law Competition awarded them the Honourary Henry Dunant Prize at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The award is allocated to the team that best exemplifies the values of the ICRC - Red Crescent Movement and the Founder, Henry Dunant, who was the first person to ever be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
Also, a special award went to Bam-Mguye for being the third best speaker of the internal rounds of this completion. Bam-Mguye is from Oakglen in Bellville and an active member of the UWC Moot Society, developing her legal skills with mock trials and debates. She helped establish a public speaking co-curricular activity called the True Leaders.
“We made a good, supportive team and I’m pleased with our award,” she said. The other member of the team, Mabena, who is the chairperson of the 2015/2016 UWC Debating Union and from Kempton Park, Johannesburg, was pleased to be part of the competition. “I moved to Cape Town to pursue my LLB degree. I have always advocated for the less fortunate, the illiterate, the marginalised and minority groups to be treated with the dignity that they deserved,” says Mabena.
She explains how she happened to be privileged enough to be part of this competition. “Before this moot competition, I took part in other moots - the Kader Asmal moot, the child law moot and the All Africa Human Rights Law (IHRL) moot. All these moots dealt with International Human Rights Law (IHRL) and this moot was different as it dealt with International Humanitarian Law (IHL). I was interested in learning about something new and different, a field of law which I can compare and contrast to the similarities and differences of IHRL.
“I also participated in order to be granted the opportunity to travel to another African Country apart from South Africa. My favourite part of the Moot was when we visited the African court, which is the highest court in our continent. We were told about the history of the court and we were given the opportunity to meet the African Court’s honourable judges.
“We did really well. Our team was the only team that had no previous background or knowledge of IHL, but we were eager to learn. We took a lot of notes, we asked questions in classes and I think we worked well as a team, answering difficult questions during the preliminary rounds.”
She has big dreams, too. “I’m hoping to be one of the honourable Justices at the Constitutional Court. This really is one of my biggest dreams ever,” she says.
“I look up to Nelson Mandela for being a selfless human being, for coming out of prison, forgiving his oppressors, understanding his oppressors and seeking to strive for a peaceful nation. There aren’t a lot of people who possess such humble and forgiving hearts, where you get to understand why someone did you wrong - a skill I am still learning over time. Another person I look up to is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for encouraging us with her ‘We should all be feminists’ TedTalk. She inspires me to continue to fight for the liberation of women and women’s rights. She shares her experiences of being an African feminist, and her views on gender construction and sexuality.”
Dr Angelo Dube, a senior lecturer at UWC, can’t be more proud of the team. “My role as coach is influenced by my desire to have young people see the world in the same way I do. The best way is to mentor them to think in this way: to pay it forward so that one day they too will be able help someone else rise to the next level.
“This is what ubuntu demands of us. It's the African spirit in us that keeps nudging us to do good, because inherently we are good people. So my investment in moot coaching is in trying to help young legal minds realise their potential and to nurture that potential to fruition.”
The highlight of the Moot was receiving that prize, because it is a testament to the fact that despite the chaos emanating from the Fees Must Fall campaign, our students gave their all to pursue this.
“Our team did well, because they are resilient, they take their moot preps seriously, and most importantly, they are teachable. We have worked with them in previous moots, and they have learned a lot from those experiences. As a coach, ensuring that I throw them in the deep end and that they learn to swim, means I only come in to rescue them if they are drowning. It works each time. They learn to think on their feet,” says Dube.