Mr Bonginkosi Shozi, a Master’s student at UKZN’s Law School, got to experience the world of legal practice up close as he accompanied his dissertation supervisor, Dr Donrich Thaldar, to the Pretoria High Court.
Dr Thaldar, a UKZN academic and experienced advocate, was arguing a ground-breaking constitutional case before the Pretoria High Court. Speaking on his experience at the court, Shozi described it as ‘awe inspiring’.
The case concerned three people who were wrongfully convicted of murder, and as a result were incarcerated for eleven years before their convictions and sentences were eventually overturned on appeal. The reason they spent such a long time in jail is that the state took years to provide them with a record of the trial court proceedings which is essential in formulating an appeal. Can these wrongfully convicted people hold the state liable for wrongful incarceration? Dr Thaldar sought to establish a new precedent in South African law that the state can be held directly liable based on the state’s constitutional duty to ensure a fair trial.
Given that Shozi is currently studying towards an LLM in Constitutional Law, this case was highly relevant to his studies. ‘It is one thing to know the theory of how constitutional law works, but experiencing real constitutional litigation gave me a much deeper appreciation and understanding of how constitutional law works. The most special part for me was knowing that one day I will read about this case and know that I was present when history was made,’ he said.
Shozi has ambitions of becoming an advocate and working on iconic human rights such as the one that he attended. Therefore, the experience was potentially a glimpse of his own future.