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Research on Public Protests Wins Law Academic Top Award

February 15, 2017

Mr Khulekani Khumalo (left) receiving his best research paper prize.

Winning the annual Ellie Newman Moot Court competition, beating 320 participants by showcasing outstanding legal skills, is a sure sign that fourth-year Law student Mr Elisha Kunene is equipped for success in the legal profession.

Kunene competed in the Moot final - hosted by the School of Law in Durban - alongside finalists Ms Jolene Thompson, Mr Andile Mabaso and Mr Connor Alexander.

The finalists displayed their legal prowess in front of judges, Law School academics Professor Karthy Govender, Ms Lindiwe Maqutu, Professor Tanya Woker and Mr Vishal Surbun as well as family and friends.

A highlight at the final was third-year Law student Mr Andile Mcineka being awarded the Yunus Mohammed Public Interest Law Award by Madam Justice Dhaya Pillay for his article: “Winnie Getting the Short End of the Stick”, which was published in The Sunday Tribune.

The award recognises Mcineka’s valuable contribution to knowledge in the field of public law.

‘There was depth in his argument; he drew on judgments in a coherent manner; it was a pleasure interacting with him…’ these were some of the comments made by the judges on Kunene’s performance before his announcement as the winner which was greeted with resounding applause and a standing ovation from the audience.

‘Winning the Ellie Newman award means the world to me. It’s literally a dream come true. My time in ‘varsity has been quite difficult in a number of ways but I was determined to finish strongly and I sort of viewed this year as a rebuilding period,’ says Kunene.

‘Earlier in the year a good friend of mine and I won the Southern African National Debating Championships and I ranked first in the country. So I really feel like God is with me on this winning streak.’

The great debater who used his skills to coach school debating teams to generate funds for his university tuition got academic merit scholarships from UKZN for his first and second year. However, monetary challenges nearly saw Kunene being financially excluded in his second year.

‘In a remarkable turn of events I was able to stay and complete my studies thanks to a generous intervention by Norton Rose Fulbright. The firm and I parted ways this year but I will always be grateful to them and to everyone else who have contributed to keeping me going,’ he said.

Looking to the future, Kunene said: ‘I have been granted the great privilege of being accepted to clerk for Justice Raymond Zondo at the Constitutional Court next year.’  His long-term plans include becoming an advocate.

Thandiwe Jumo
UKZN academic Mr Khulekani Khumalo’s inaugural presentation at the Society of Law Teachers of Southern Africa (SLTSA) Conference earned him the Best First Time Presenter prize.

Khumalo’s paper was titled: “When is Protest Action ‘Violent’ for Purposes of the Crime of Public Violence”.

The Conference gives South African legal education specialists an opportunity to be at presentations by both emerging and established Law academics and also provides them with a chance to exchange ideas and research findings on all aspects of the law.

UKZN was again well represented at the Conference with Law academics Professor Shannon Hoctor, Professor Nomthandazo Ntlama, Ms Nicci Whitear-Nel, Ms Zama Njobe, Mr Maropeng Mpya and Ms Juanita Easthorpe also presenting papers.

‘A discussion on protests usually grabs the attention of people as it is a burning issue in society today. I analysed the existing meaning of “violence”, identified its shortcomings and proposed a definition of violence that I believe does not lead to inconsistent conclusions and uncertainties in the law,’ said Khumalo.

Khumalo’s research in this area has been published in the First Volume of the South African Journal of Criminal Justice (SACJ) in 2016 and his passion for the subject continues to grow.

‘The public order field is an interesting area of the law to be involved in at present, especially in the aftermath of last year’s #FeesMustFall protests,’ said Khumalo. ‘A number of cases have come before the courts for adjudication and those judgments are now translating into various academic contributions aimed at developing our public order jurisprudence. During the December break, I produced two articles on issues pertaining to public violence and these are being considered for publication.’

Khumalo plays an active role in teaching in his position as a Lecturer in the School of Law and is also a doctoral candidate.

‘The comments I received from the Conference have given me more ideas for further publications in my field. I am continuing with my PhD thesis which is also in the same area - looking at the constitutionality of South Africa’s existing internal security laws,’ he said.

Thandiwe Jumo

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