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College students win law competition

Feb. 18, 2020 4 min read

Students from 22 African universities entered a law contest called Africa Price Moot Court, run by Oxford University in the UK. The contesting students included those from some advantaged South African and regional universities. In the end, only five universities won. The National University of Lesotho (NUL) was among the top five in the contest.

The students - Vusi Mashinini, Reabetsoe Sebata and Thato Katiba have put NUL on the Map. They were under the guidance of Dr Itumeleng Shale.

One day the fearsome threesome woke up to this message, “Dear all, the memorial scores have been collated and we are pleased to announce the following five teams as the qualifying teams for the international rounds at Oxford: 803 Bahir Dar University (Ethiopia), 805 Moi University (Kenya), 810 National University of Lesotho, 817 Makerere University (Uganda) and 822 Kenyatta University of Law (Kenya).

Did you notice something in the message, “…as the qualifying teams for the international rounds at Oxford…”? Yes, by winning, these folks have booked their tickets to Oxford University in March.

There, they won’t be representing NUL. They won’t be representing Lesotho either. They won’t even be representing SADC. They will be representing Africa as it locks its horns with winners from other continents.

In the good old days, during the Apartheid South Africa, students from all over Africa used to skip many African universities in favour of NUL. At that time, NUL Law School had a particularly respected standing among African Law scholars.

Fast forward and you find that today’s NUL, soaked deep in the womb of the mother South Africa, has been suffocated by an interest in apartheid-free South African universities, to its detriment. No wonder then, that the tiny African university is punching above its weight to reclaim what NUL’s older folks, proverbially like to call its “former glory” for which they are in perpetual mourning.

The contest was about four issues. The first two issues involved rights to privacy on the internet and the second two involved freedom of expression on the internet. In each issue, they had to present their cases in two versions to the Moot Court; first as applicants and then as the defendants. That meant they had to make a total of 8 arguments.

What, though, is a Moot Court? “It is an imitation of an actual court operation. Africa Price Moot Court focuses on issues of law which have not yet been settled internationally,” Mashinini said. “Issues of privacy and freedom of expression are still hotly contested within the legal space.”

Just last year, they said, Facebook was in court answering issues of privacy. Modern companies such as Facebook and Google apparently know more about you, than you know of yourself. They know when you wake up and sleep, what things you like and don’t like, who your friends are, which pub you visit for a drink, well, they know absolutely everything about you.

They trace you through your cell-phone.

Is that okay?

That is a hotly contested question.


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So why did they win? It was not by chance. These folks applied their minds. “As we went through issues of contest, we noticed that the competition was based on real cases, only names were changed,” they said. “We also decided to be as real as possible when we approached the courts, whether as applicants or as defendants.”

First of all, the competition asked them to assume that all the national efforts to find a solution to these problems had been exhausted. They were now presenting their cases before the Universal (Moot) Court of Human Rights. So they had to give their all.

“So we approached the issues by putting ourselves in the shoes of the lawyers of the applicants or defendants,” they said. “In each case, we created imaginary clients desperate for our help and we thought about how we could better present their case by developing sharpened arguments as their lawyers.”

“Every time we developed an argument, we matched it with a counter-argument such that at some point, some of the initial arguments fell by the wayside as counter arguments poked holes in them.”

In their execution, they were thorough and they left no stone un-turned. “We executed our plans so precisely such that although there were rules which if broken, let to penalties, we literally broke no rules.”

With this approach, they were ready to challenge the giants of Africa - which they did.

There is only one problem left. The three students need funding to fly to Oxford. Surely, you will be willing to get them there to represent Africa. Catch them here: +266 57120860.

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