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In the spirit of Mandela Day, we took a walk down memory lane, to not only read about this truly remarkable man, but also to use Nelson Mandela’s life lessons as a template for some of the paths we’ve undertaken

Of the many things Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela held closely to his heart, namely: human rights; education; children’s rights; passion for sports (as a tool to heal and unite our nation). Human rights shall be the first point we touch on.

Human Rights for all

We are reminded by the quote below, of the darker times our beautiful country, and people once had to endure, of the long walk to freedom that we made. The Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), were a tool of negotiation between the then government, organizations and political parties of South Africa, striving toward a better government and living measures for people of all races in the country inter alia.

The question that faces us all is, how long can we, who claim to be the leaders of our people sit here, talk eloquently, spin out complicated formulae and enjoy the applause while the country sinks deeper and deeper into crisis…?

– Nelson Mandela (at the second session of CODESA), the African Law Review

Wits Archived Image

(Image Source: Wits Archives)


One of Nelson Mandela’s most prolific quotes on education is: “it is not beyond our powers to create a world where all children have access to good education. Those who do not believe this have small imaginations.” The above mentioned quote amplifies Mandela’s true dedication to the cause of education. We too at the Black Lawyers Association – Legal Education Centre have taken a leaf from this great man’s page, we are in constant pursuit and dedication of education. Our primary focus is educating those who were previously disadvantaged through the policies of the previous apartheid government. Additionally, to make the legal profession accessible to those who lacked adequate resources to practise and economically partake in it. We realize this goal through our legal education training programmes, and community outreach educational initiatives. In 2007 the Nelson Mandela Institute was founded to circumvent the educational crisis in rural Africa

Education is key

(Image source: Zalebs)

The current status on education in South African

Section 29 (1) b hinges on the realisation of this right to further education, against the availability which is afforded by the state, to the public. Is this a feasible right currently?

2015 marked the year where we saw the youth of South Africa in universities take a stand against exorbitant tuition fees. These protests known as the #NationalShutdown and #FeesMustFall gave rise to other ancillary issues of concern, like the language policies around South African institutions of higher learning

Which raises the question, has the Mandela legacy been given effect to? Should the youth and children of this country be out on the streets pleading for their rights and access to higher education? If not them, then whom should the responsibility lie with?

Which raises the question, has the Mandela legacy been given effect to? Should the youth and children of this country be out on the streets pleading for their rights and access to higher education? If not them, then whom should the responsibility lie with?

The enforcement of Children’s Rights

Through his dedication to children’s rights, the Nelson Mandela Children’s fund was set up with the aim of changing the way society treats its children and youth. This long-term vision captures the central role society plays in shaping children’s lives, with a mission set out to give a voice and dignity to the African child by building a rights-based movement

Additionally, in 2005 he was awarded the World’s Children’s Prize (for the rights of the child) and elected Decade Child Rights Hero in 2009 respectively. He was awarded these accolades for his continued, unwavering commitment to children’s rights in South Africa


The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital construction has been completed, it is reported that the official opening is scheduled for December this year. The aim of the hospital as per Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund CEO Sibongile Mkhabela, is the notion that no child should be turned away due to an inability to pay

Nelson Mandela on Sport as a uniting tool, for the nation

Nelson Mandela was an avid, enthusiastic boxer. He took up the sport initially for its recreational merits, however later on he found that it was an outlet that could help channel his energies, and it gave him great discipline

Another iconic image, which will be forever engrained in our history, is the lifting of the 1995 Rugby World Cup Trophy by the late Mandela, uTata Madiba as he is affectionately known.

Nelson Mandela has gifted us with his legacy, the baton is now passed on to us, what legacies are we striving towards?

Nelson Mandela

(Image source: The National)

Nelson Mandela

(Image Source:
“Boxing is an egalitarian sport”

*Further Reading

The Nelson Mandela Tourist App:
BLA-LEC Blog Archive: “One man can change the world, Nelson Mandela taught us so”
BLA-LEC Blog Archive: “Language Matters”
BLA-LEC Blog Archive: “The Progressive Realisation of Socio-economic Rights ‘#FeesMustFall’ ’’

The progressive realisation of socio-economic rights: ‘#FeesMustFall’

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A few weeks ago, the country saw a series of mass protests at various institutions of higher learning, viz WITS, Rhodes, UCT, UWC among others. The protests, facilitated and led by the students of the institutions themselves called for fee increments across universities to ‘fall’, this was prompted by the decision by various school councils to raise fees by a certain percentage. There was also other grievances the students had, for instance the lack of funding for the poorest of the poor, not being ‘poor enough’ for NSFAS and the outsourcing of cleaning staff.

The one call that did stand out, and raise robust debate was the call for ‘free education’. According to the Education clause in the Constitution, Section 29 (1) b :

Everyone has the right to further education, which the state through reasonable measures must make progressively available and accessible.

Section 29 (1) b hinges on the realisation of this right to further education, against the availability which is afforded by the state, to the public. Is this a feasible right currently?

South Africa in contrast to other jurisdictions such as Germany for instance currently does not offer free further education to all, which leaves a large number of students destitute. Many South Africans live below the breadline which consequently makes it harder for the average South African to pursue further studies post-matric. This is one the factors that gave rise to the #FeesMustFall movement, the movement is also said to be reminiscent of the ‘Arab Spring’ protests in the year 2010, it also gave rise to other various hashtags on social media viz #NationalShutdown. The movement also gained support in other jurisdictions such as Britain, with university students in London protesting in solidarity. The South African Fashion Week also took to the runway, and expressed their solidarity to the movement, with models carrying #NationalShutdown placards.

To give context and light on the matter, Raymond Suttner writing for the ‘Daily Maverick’ in his Op-Ed: #FeesMustFall and the status of post-Apartheid South Africa’, states: “clearly, race does matter.”

Race being the huge influential factor in the protest actions, given the historical context of this country and the imbalances caused by the apartheid regime. Suttner goes on to say:

the driving force of the protests was however, the unfulfilled promises of 1994, the failure to secure social equality between black and white, rich and poor.

Section 9 of the Constitution makes provision for equality for all, but yet even with the equality clause for some rights to be implemented, a balance has to be struck between competing interests.

What the #FeesMustFall movement has however managed to do, aside from successfully obtaining the zero percent fee increment for the year 2016 which was announced by President Jacob Zuma speaking at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the movement has managed to get the dialogue around ‘free education’ interrelated issues going, and that is a start to the journey in the progressive realisation of rights entrenched in our Constitution.


Fees Must Fall

(Image source: Mail & Guardian)

Fees Must Fall

(Image source: Nic Bothma Daily Maverick)

Who is Dr G.M Pitje

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Once in a while history is blessed with great men, one such man was Dr Godfrey Mokgonane Pitje.

Born in the former Transvaal, (now Limpopo) province in 1917 July 20th. Not much is reported on his upbringing, save for the fact that he was born in Phokwane, Nebo. Therefore, we will focus on his adult life. He went on to obtain a teaching Diploma. This propelled him into a teaching career.

Whilst pursuing his teaching career, he went on to obtain his matric and enrolled himself for a degree in Fort Hare. He graduated in 1944, with a B.A degree. He later obtained degrees in education and law.

It is through his law degree that he would make his greatest mark in history. He served his articles at Mandela and Tambo’s firm. This is where he grew to recognize the many injustices and inequalities faced by black lawyers.

In his later years, he later went on to be the 2nd director of the Black Lawyers Association – Legal Education Centre and founding member of Sechaba Medical Solutions group, a black health care group. His legacy is one of excellence, a bar which he set high. He dedicated his life to the improvement of black professionals. A shining beacon of hope amongst his peers, we can all take a page out of his book and continue on a path of excellence and start something meaningful. He passed on, April 23rd 1997. He is survived by his wife Molly Pitje, and 2 children.

The links below provide more detailed accounts on his life, more especially the Black Lawyers Association tribute, to Dr. Pitje. We are grateful for the insights the article provided, and we urge that you read on further.

Legal Education Training, the quintessence of a great Lawyer

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In recent reports, it has been found that the graduates that are leaving varsity to enter the legal profession, as candidate attorneys are not fully equipped with the requisite practical skills they ought to have. See links for full report, (Courtesy of University World News Site)

The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) reports that since 1990 thousands of law graduates have benefitted from Practical Legal Training (PLT) programmes, by which their academic training has been supplemented with practically-based training, thereby enhancing their skills preparatory to entry into the profession.

In light of the report on shortages in terms of legal practical skills we emphasise the following: we at the BLA-LEC have designed our legal education training programmes in a manner that caters to historically disadvantaged South Africans, who were deprived of the necessary resources then to further their studies. The Law degree itself in South Africa was the subject of reform in 1998. The aim of this reform was to make the degree more accessible to a larger pool of students, more specifically those from historically disadvantaged backgrounds. Yet, thus for the reform to prove fruitful, it should also be aided by the requisite resources.

What our legal education centre provides is technique that cannot be taught restrictively in a book alone, but rather it is knowledge which is applied through technique, for instance our Trial Advocacy Training (TAT), which we at the legal education centre have been conducting since 1986, Trial Advocacy Training is the art of persuasion, which allows one aided with semantic skill, to deliver sharp legal arguments.

Our legal education centre is funded by the Attorney’s Fidelity Fund which is committed to legal education. Our programmes offer a thorough list of tools required by our candidates. For instance, a 3 day basic intensive training programme which covers the aspects of a trial, inclusive of:

  • Case Analysis
  • Opening Statements
  • Direct Examination (Examination in chief)
  • Cross Examination and
  • Closing Arguments

We have highly established trainers who bring their experience to the learning programme through, demonstration and valuating performances, instant feedback for our candidates. With this kind of learning one is well on their way to advancing in their legal profession, legal education training is therefore the quintessence of a great lawyer.

Realise your human potential today

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The belief in human potential recognizes the importance of people, people are important. For any economy to thrive, it must have a bulk of skilled and inspired people forming part of the workforce. We have crystallized our belief in human potential by way of our Community Outreach programme.

We believe in ploughing back into the community, to ensure development and to create a culture of sustainability. Under our Community Outreach banner, we host Law Clinics and we have adopted a High School and a Children’s Home.

In 2015, we hope to further our human potential agenda and create a legacy that stands the test of time. Do join us, as we lend a hand.

BLA-LEC Mandela Day

BLA-LEC Mandela Day, 67 Minutes

The co-founder of Trial Advocacy Training shares a lunch with the BLA-LEC team

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Mr James Fergusson II is an American jurist who co-founded this country’s first Trial Advocacy Training, (TAT) in 1986. Mr Fergusson II is an exemplary jurist, who has consistently been voted as a ‘Super Lawyer’ by his peers. He has also been listed as one of the top 10 litigators in the U.S.

It thus gives us great pleasure to report on his visit to South Africa this year. Fergusson shared an insightful lunch with our Legal Education Centre team, during our ‘Information Exchange Sessions’. Saying that we were under the presence of greatness would be an understatement, yet notwithstanding all his critically acclaimed achievements, Mr James E. Fergusson remains humble.

He is featured in our BLA-LEC history discussion under the ‘History’ tab on our website, his contribution towards the introduction of Trial Advocacy training in South Africa will forever be engraved in our history and the history of the legal profession.

See some of the images from our session with the legendary James E. Fergusson II.

Information Exchange Session images gallery

The “African Law Review” and it’s importance?

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It is fundamentally important to preserve the dialogue and written work by black lawyers, and legal practitioners before the new constitutional paradigm that came about post-apartheid. This is important for two main reasons: the importance of our own stories (as black lawyers) being told by us, and the ability to check and evaluate our progress against those times, which presents us with a learning opportunity from the past.

This is why the AFRICAN LAW REVIEW is held in high regard by the BLA-LEC, rightfully so at that, as it presents itself now to us amongst other things, a resourceful tool. The Review was launched in 1987, its’ objective: to facilitate a platform for members of the legal profession to engage in robust debate, about issues affecting the profession, and to provide much needed knowledge of the law beyond the legal profession.

Essentially, the AFRICAN LAW REVIEW was a platform for black attorneys to write-up on the applicable laws at the time, new legislation, proposed bills, over and above, a platform for moot. In an honorary article dated April 2010 to the founder, the first president of the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) and the first director of the BLA-LEC, the BLA re-published a noteworthy profile article on Dr. Godfrey Mokgonyane Pitje. This article was initially published in the 1988-bumper issue of the AFRICAN LAW REVIEW, and it highlighted the number of problems encountered by black lawyers at the time: problems of recognition, ‘our own black people did not accept that African lawyers could be as good as white lawyers.’ These problems of recognition were the raison d’etre for the establishment of the AFRICAN LAW REVIEW.

Thus in honour of this great piece of history, we’ve retrieved a case note written on the subject matter of demolished houses titled: ‘The Wrangle on Demolished Homes’. The article choice was not a random one, at the heart of the many socio-economic issues facing South Africa currently, the lack of adequate housing is at the top of the list. This case note was written well over 2 decades ago, yet still relevant to the plight of South African lives today. The note touches on the demolition of peoples’ homes in 1987. Demolitions are closely linked to evictions, which are an issue that always hits South Africa hard. The current position in our law, on evictions is governed by section 26 (3) of the Constitution, read with the PIE ACT (Prevention of Illegal Eviction from, and Unlawful Occupation of, Land Act 19 of 1998). These statutory provisions aim to remedy the problems faced by many landless unlawful occupants around South Africa, who meet the requisite requirements of the Act, by preventing unlawful evictions commissioned by property owners.

The AFRICAN LAW REVIEW was last published in 1995, however its’ legacy endures and offers several talking points, and guidelines for prospective and current legal practitioners. It even goes beyond the reach of the legal profession, it is an essential part of the history of South Africa as it has documented pivotal events. The founding members of the AFRICAN LAW REVIEW founded the review on the values and objectives that the BLA-LEC operates on. It is a tool that should not be forgotten, nor left behind in history, but one that should be preserved and used to inspire both young and old.

The AFRICAN LAW REVIEW is thus a fine collective account of the rich history of the BLA, the BLA-LEC, South Africa and Africa as a whole. We fully encourage that you take time to peruse it and reflect back on the past, to set the tone forward.

What we have achieved as the BLA-LEC (Annual Report Summation)

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We have largely managed to demystify the law and advance its accessibility throughout our years in service, this in turn bodes well for the administration of justice.

Our legal education centre’s activities continue to reach out to lawyers who would not otherwise be able to reach out to that particular branch of law. Do peruse our website more, for further insight(s).

Our Purpose

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The purpose of Legal Education Training is to develop and improve legal skills. Most of which are practical based, or were inaccessible to previously disadvantaged legal practitioners.

We have grouped our trainings into 3 main pillars, namely:

  • Trial Advocacy Training
  • Commercial Law Programme
  • Continuing Legal Education.

We have been conducting the Trial Advocacy programme since 1986, you can read up on this type of training and more under our ‘Training’ tab on the site.

We put emphasis on practical legal skills, as we all know that legal practice is far different from what we find in textbooks, legal education training offers a more thorough and interactive approach.

Our Ethos

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We, the Black Lawyers Association – Legal Education Centre (BLA-LEC) are:

  1. Dedicated to the improvement of the legal profession.
  2. Committed to the effective management and development of human potential in accordance with its values and to the promotion of an egalitarian and equitable social order.

We achieve our ideals through, amongst other things our legal education training programs, community outreach programs.