The popular annual NWU-Juta Mock Trial competition celebrated its tenth birthday and finals in a virtual courtroom on 2 August. This was the first time that the entire competition, from the first elimination rounds to the finals, took place online.
A combined NWU team of third-year students representing the state were this year’s winners. The team, comprising Jacob Masumpa, Thato Montigwe, Luthando Swartz and Raymond van Vuuren, was victorious in a domestic violence case in which the complainant had not only been assaulted and stabbed, but the accused had also contravened the terms of a protection order. The trial fit into the theme of social justice during Covid-19 and was the Faculty of Law’s start to Women’s Month.
Presiding officer Advocate Mark Adams, who has been involved in the NWU-Juta Mock Trial competition since it started in 2011, found in favour of the state. He says although both teams impressed with their preparation during the trials, it was the winning team that managed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“They did a wonderful job by referring to case law that was in line with the points that the court made. I was impressed by the way they led the witness, the detail they placed on record and their excellent cross-examination.”
Adv Steve Allcock from Juta commended all the participants for their dedication and says everyone should be proud of what they achieved. “Trial preparation and presentation in court are hard skills to master. Trial skills are essential in understanding the course of the litigation process and in preparing a proper case on behalf of a client.” He says it was inspiring to see the well thought-out and prepared presentations. Juta has been a co-sponsor of the mock trials competition since 2013.
The winning team also won in the Facebook photo competition that formed part of this year’s competition.
The defence team consisted of Kamo Khupuza, Xolane Masango, Jaline Mothobi and Xoli Zekiso.
The two final teams shared prizes to the value of R40 000.
Seven tutors supported the participants in this year’s mock trials. They are Gabrielle Burns, Adv René Koraan, Celia Lourens, Adv Steven Serumaga-Zake, Friedel Steenekamp, Myrone Stoffels and Adv Getsia Zazo.
Alumni bear testimony on impact of NWU-Juta Mock Trials
One of the highlights of the event was a video in which various alumni who are now pursuing careers in the law fraternity, as well as tutors and other stakeholders, not only congratulated Advocate René Koraan and the organisers of the NWU-Juta Mock Trials on its tenth anniversary but also gave testimony on the impact the NWU-Juta Mock trials had had on them as they prepared for their professional careers.
Many of them said that the mock trials remain one of their favourite memories during their studies and they encouraged future students to take part in them.
Sheree Kristen, an attorney and former participant, says she learned a lot from the trials during her student days. “They definitely bridged the gap for me between theory and the practical world. I was prepared when I walked into court and when I did my articles. I knew I could fall back on what I had been taught in the mock trials. It is an incredible initiative.”
Attorney Lebogang Moilwa, who was a former winner in the mock trials, says it is through this initiative that students learn the practical part of law. “I was able to learn how to deal with witnesses and the importance of understanding facts. The mock trials sharpen one’s skills and improve and build your confidence, research skills and understanding of the law.”
Lecturer Gaopalelwe Mathiba says two lessons he learned during his involvement stand out. “The first is confidence, the ability to stand in front of people, articulating yourself and addressing them without any sense of self-doubt, with teamwork being the second important lesson.
The mock trials are very progressive and insightful, and continue to inspire, capacitate and empower those students who have the privilege of participating in it.”
Candidate attorney Davin Olen says he encourages students to participate in the mock trials and hone their litigation skills. “The competition has a significant impact on one’s approach to law.”
Advocate’s vision reaps rewards
Dr Neo Morei, executive dean of the Faculty of Law, says the importance of the mock trials cannot be over-emphasised. “In addition to providing students with knowledge of the judicial system, legal processes and courtroom procedures, mock trials teach essential skills such as public speaking, critical thinking and the art of formulating a persuasive and cohesive argument. It is a vital exercise for our students, as it provides a transition from the study of law to the practice of law. It teaches one to be a skilled and able litigator.”
The NWU-Juta Mock Trial competition is the product of the vision of Adv René Koraan, director of Professional Development and Community Engagement and senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law on the campus in Potchefstroom. She started the competition in 2011, initially for the Potchefstroom campus, but since 2014 it has grown into an inter-campus competition. She saw it as an opportunity for second-and third-year students to gain much-needed experience.
René says the NWU-Juta Mock Trial competition will continue its mission to give law students the opportunity to gain practical experience. This year more than 140 students participated in the mock trials. The online event was attended by lecturers, members of staff, members of the judiciary, attorneys, advocates and representatives of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
“Students are eager to learn and put in the extra work, not just to win the competition, but to be better. We should never underestimate the impact of such competitions and workshops on the development of young aspiring lawyers.”
The victorious team that walked away with the title of 2021 NWU-Juta Mock Trials winners. They are Jacob Masumpa, Thato Montigwe, Luthando Swartz and Raymond van Vuuren.