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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

School moot court contest good for SA

23 February 2020

Win by Team SA, made up of intelligent and vibrant youngsters, gives hope that our human rights future is in good hands, writes André Gaum and Gushwell F Brooks

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) joined the rest of South Africa in congratulating the International Moot Court champions – Team SA – on their phenomenal win at the fifth International School Moot Court Competition in Gdynia, Poland, on January 31 this year.
Early last year the commission became the lead institution in presenting the National Schools Moot Court Competition (NSMCC) with our main partners being the departments of basic education and justice and constitutional development and the Centre for Human Rights.
This provided an opportunity to all grades 10 and 11 pupils to participate in the competition.

The national competition kicked off with pupils writing an essay on a predetermined hypothetical human rights issue. Top performers reached a provincial round which consisted of argumentation around the human rights issue, in a simulated court setting.
The top performers from this round then proceeded to participate in the national finals which commenced on September 29 last year
at the University of Pretoria, and consisted of teams arguing the human rights issue against one another.
The grand finale was held September 29 last year, at the Constitutional Court at Constitutional Hill in Braamfontein.
The finalists got the opportunity to argue before Constitutional Court and High Court judges, where they demonstrated their thinking
and oratory skills as well as their understanding of the Bill of Rights and human rights generally.
For the SAHRC, the NSMCC is the perfect platform for raising human rights awareness among pupils, their friends, relatives and their
Human rights education is a core focus in the work of the commission which derives its mandate from the Constitution. This mandate is
threefold being: the protection, promotion and the monitoring of the attainment of human rights, within South Africa.
The promotions aspect of the commission’s mandate demands that the SAHRC plays an active role in educating and providing everyone
within South Africa with the requisite knowledge of what their human rights are, as set out in chapter two of the Constitution, the
Bill of Rights.
The national schools competition is therefore the perfect platform for delivering on the promotional of the commission, as it has the
potential to pass on essential human rights knowledge to every household which has a grades 10 and 11 pupils in it.
In turn these pupils, through their research for essays, have to prepare and the arguments they have to eventually deliver are able to pass
this knowledge beyond their immediate households onto the communities within which they live. As it stands, despite being a
constitutional democracy – with the SAHRC
itself celebrating its 25th anniversary this year – South Africa remains a deeply challenged nation.
With unemployment, inequality, poverty and violence at all-time historical highs as well as the impact of state capture resulting in largescale
corruption and financial mismanagement, South Africa is faced with increasing turmoil with human rights violations coming into sharp
In turn, a lack of service delivery due to limited resources, or some of the self-inflicted factors such as corruption listed above, robs
ordinary people of the human rights they are entitled to.
With numerous water and sanitation crises erupting across various municipalities, a lack of housing, poor healthcare provision and the
challenges faced in education, communities across South Africa are engaged in violent protests that fail to address the underlying
issues and all too often exacerbate the plight of these very communities.
It is common cause that many of these violent protests and extreme actions are taken within a vacuum of knowledge of how individuals and communities can enforce their human rights without having to resort to violence and malicious damage to property.
Too many communities are unaware of what their rights are and how to assert these.

The National Schools Moot Court
Competition is therefore the most opportune vehicle to deliver this knowledge as far and wide, in every nook and cranny of South Africa.
Society gains young people who are aware, responsible and active citizens.
What this year’s International Moot Court champions proved is that when equipped with the requisite human rights knowledge, young
South Africans can be the strongest advocates in the protection of human rights at a global level.
Team SA, that won against a team from the US in the final, consisted of Sureshka Naidoo and Caitlin Schwarer from Eden College in
Johannesburg, Nondumiso Ntshangase and Nosipho Dube from Mathubesizwe High School in Macambini, KwaZulu-Natal as well as Mihlali
Precious Stofile and Ondele Bede from Holy Cross College in Johannesburg, Okhela Sigwela and Lizalise Dlomo from Hudson Park High
School in East London in the Eastern Cape.
This group of intelligent, vibrant young people has given the commission, our partners and the rest of South Africa the hope that the
future of the country’s human rights culture, remains in strong hands.

Gaum is commissioner and Brooks is communications coordinator at the SAHRC

Source: City Press

The South African Human Rights Commission.

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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