Gift of the gab: Tinashe Makoni (right) and Jonathan Moakes have won the Faculty of Law's Human Rights Moot Court Competition.
For a few hours three weeks ago, the Law Faculty's Oliver Tambo Moot Court was a de facto courtroom boasting a bailiff, an applicant and a respondent, as well as an impressive array of five judges. The occasion was the final round of the Faculty's fifth annual Human Rights Moot Court Competition.
While all intermediate law students are required to do at least one moot as part of their programme - arguing a case against another student - to sharpen their advocacy and research skills, the Faculty annually invites all its students to enter the competition, which serves as qualifier for the All African Human Rights Moot Competition. During the event, students argue "fictional" cases around human rights issues.
Top mooters this year were final-year students Tinashe Makoni and Jonathan Moakes, who will go to Cameroon in August to represent UCT in the 12th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition. The two beat off stiff competition from eight other contenders who entered this year's event.
Opening the competition, Dean Hugh Corder noted that, "Over the years this event has assumed greater and greater prominence, both as a means of practical training and as a medium for taking the Faculty abroad."
From the students' point of view, a factor in the competition is the amount of work involved - the case facts and legal issues are broad, requiring considerable research. "But the preparation aside, what an experience to test your knowledge against judges like Justice Belinda van Heerden [of the Cape High Court] and Professor Geraldine van Bueren [who holds the WP Schreiner Chair of Public Law at UCT]," commented Moakes.
In her summation of the event, Van Heerden paid special tribute to the other two finalists, Tinenenji Banda and Jeremy Wilkin. The two first-year students made a bit of history by becoming the first undergraduate students to reach the Faculty finals.
What is more interesting is that both of them are still studying - and have yet to complete - constitutional law and international law, regarded as foundational courses for the competition.