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University of pretoria centenary law faculty: ninety years


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UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA CENTENARY
LAW FACULTY: NINETY YEARS*
Kobus van Rooyen1

[1] A centenary is a crucial and memorable occasion for a University. The Law Faculty is 90 years old, which is equally memorable! Law is, fortunately, as old as some mountains are. Hereby, to make it formal, I wish to convey on behalf of the alumni of this Faculty our best wishes for a brilliant future. I have spent almost three quarters of my adult life at this University (1961-1998): first as a student and then as part of the lecturing staff. I planned to lecture for six years but was drawn to the profession to such an extent that I decided to make a profession of it! At 55 I took an early retirement and joined the Bar and had an opportunity to experience the hard life of practice.


[2] I have decided to convey a perspective from the context of my class of ’65, where we also had the privilege of being amongst students from the classes of ‘64 and ’66.We were twenty or so in the class and had to write down all our notes, which were dictated to us by the professor. Fax and photocopy machines and the internet were non-existent! Teaching at a University had to be in this traditional fashion: write and write and dictate and dictate! It is not only legend that a student regularly, during the two hour lecture of Prof Hamman, would stop writing and pore himself a cup of coffee from a flask; to the utmost surprise of the professor, who probably felt that he could not intervene in this very old South African tradition of drinking of coffee to strengthen the body and soul... Whether he coffee was slightly doctored one would never know. The same student, on occasion, fell asleep and fell from his bench. A friend would pick him up and he immediately went on writing like an automat!
[3] The terms alumnus and alumna would seem to have a mystic sense about them. Why is the alumni chord seemingly so much more glamorous when one refers to Harvard, Yale, Oxford or Cambridge? Is it money, is it age, is it expertise or is it splendid public relations? I have run a check on some leaders: Jan Smuts (Cambridge, where he became Chancellor later in his life), John F Kennedy (Harvard), Martin Luther King (Boston plus 20 honorary doctorates), Hillary Clinton (Yale), Bill Clinton (Georgetown, Oxford and Yale), Barack Obama (Harvard and Columbia), Margaret Thatcher (Oxford),Tony Blair (Oxford – he initially played in a rock band and wished to imitate Mick Jagger, it is whispered), Alexander Putin (University of Leningrad), Gordon Brown (Edinburgh, where he was also the rector for a term of three years), Chancellor Merkel (Leipzig), Sarkozy (University of Paris X Nanterre), Nelson Mandela ( UNISA and University of London), Berlusconi (Universitá Statale, Milan – cum laude!) and last, but not least, Academy award winning actress Jodie Foster (Yale, magna cum laude). Lawyers would seem to be attracted to political office: Smuts, Sarkozy, Putin, Blair, Berlusconi, Bill and Hillary Clinton. And yet, the greatest leader of them all and Nobel Prize laureate for Literature, Winston Churchill, could write only army training and a public school after his name – though, of course, it was Harrow! The annual fee at Harrow is presently £24500! And then, to close the list with that miracle human rights activist: Abraham Lincoln only had 18 months schooling and, otherwise, was an avid reader. His curriculum vitae reads that he was a renowned local wrestler (6ft 4 inches tall) and “very skilled with an axe.” Ultimately personality, intelligence, hard work and dedication lie at the core of success, not necessarily brilliance. Margaret Thatcher’s reports read that she was hard-working and dedicated, but not brilliant... Churchill became a brilliant speaker in spite of an initial impediment of stuttering and a lisp: to illustrate this he, on occasion, said the following, difficult-to-say phrase: “my impediment is no hindrance.” In his writings about his escape from a South African prison during the Anglo-Boer war, Churchill relates how his friends, who had been caught during the escape, spoke Latin to him (while he was already on the other side of the wall on his way to the Apies River) and told him to flee on his own. It is highly unlikely that Latin will ever be spoken at that spot again!
[4] Nevertheless, a name of a University does count and the constant question is how to achieve true excellence. How should a Faculty constantly, throughout the life of alumni and alumnae be a badge of dignity for the student and a source of respect, if not awe, for those who seek expert advice. How did Harvard do it? On the front page of Business Day of 9 May 2008 one reads that Harvard Experts advised government that the Reserve Bank’s projection of a 4, 5% growth rate is too high. The word Harvard says it all. Christof Heyns and Johann van der Westhuizen would, rightly, add Yale, where both did post-graduate research. For Humboldt fellows the Max Planck Institutes in Germany have special significance: and this Faculty has produced at least 10 such fellows. And of course, many professors obtained their doctorates or did research in Leyden, another University of particular standing: while they are here tonight, let me mention Johann and Susan Scott and Henning Viljoen.
[5] From an historical perspective change was in the air in the 1965 South Africa (my final LlB year at this faculty), but how dramatic that change would be was unknown to the governing minority: the massacre at Sharpeville had taken place 5 years earlier, Nelson Mandela had been in jail for only 2 years of his 27 years, John Kennedy and Martin Luther King had been assassinated 2 years earlier, Dr Verwoerd was yet to be assassinated, the Soweto children’s uprising and Steve Biko’s death would take place 12 years later, the ban on sex between Black and White would be lifted 18 years later, the Dutch Reformed Church, under the dynamic leadership of Prof Johan Heyns, would only, 21 years later, open its doors to all races, the ANC and other organisations would only be unbanned 25 years later, after much blood had flown. Full democracy would have to wait almost 30 years.
[6] To return to 1965: yes, at the end of 1965 all law students suddenly took an interest in the law library: snippets from the “sex” scenes in the banned Wilbur Smith novel, When the Lion Feeds, were only available in the law reports, and more specifically, the minority judgment of alumnus Mr Justice Rumpff – 1965(4) SA 137(A). Of course the scenes were all but explicit and Mr Justice Rumpff was vindicated when during 1975 a publications committee unbanned the work. In 1973 André Brink’s Kennis van die Aand was banned by the Publications Board and this ban was confirmed by a Full Bench of the Cape Supreme Court in 1974 : a crude mixture of sex and religion having been the reason for the ban.2 This ban was lifted by the new Publications Appeal Board nine years later. In 1977, Magersfontein, the best satire that had been written in Afrikaans was banned. The profane and crude language in the book led to the ban. Three years later it was unbanned, the Publications Appeal Board finding the language to have been contextually justified.3 Those times were, indeed, strange times. Looking back, it was a scandal that these books (and other books of merit) were banned before the eighties. After the eighties a new approach led to the unbanning of all works which were not pornographic.
[7] But what must a Faculty teach its students? It, most certainly, cannot add experience to what it teaches. That is up to the student. But a thorough academic training remains obligatory for every lawyer. The Faculty imbeds the principle in the mind of the student and inspires the student to make it axiomatic in practice and life generally. Take as an example the following famous axiom of the Roman lawyer Ulpian: plus valet quod agitur quam quod simulate concipitur.4 What it says is that truth and not simulation will win the day. This is an unalterable rule and throughout life one experiences this axiom in action: whether in law, religion, politics or economics. For years, e.g. the NG Church told its members that the Bible supported apartheid, which then formed the basis of our legal and political system. By 1986 the truth emerged: the Bible did not support apartheid!5 Some good old common law rules are still just as alive: rules such as nemo plus iuris ad alium transferre potest... and qui prior in tempore potior est in iure and sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas are axioms which will apply in perpetuo. And then, of course, there is also D 39.3.1.12 which states that an evil motive may make an otherwise lawful act unlawful. Whether this rule was inspired by the order which King David gave that the husband of Bathsheba should go to the war frontline is open to conjecture! In any case, it was his evil motive that turned his lawful order into nothing else than an order to kill (for lustful purposes!). And unbelievably, I am presently seized with a matter where nec vi, nec clam nec precario is still the issue. How archaic do these words not sound within a modern world of mobile phones, WiMAX, broadband, television and bluetooth!
[8] However, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa has catapulted us into a new legal paradigm. This paradigm brought democracy, fairness, equality and dignity to a system of law which was, in the seventies, described by a law professor as having as its typical feature, its unreasonableness. A few examples of this new paradigm are: the death penalty was invalidated by the Constitutional Court (“CC”) since it amounts to an inhuman form of punishment and is open to arbitrary application6; corporal punishment of convicts was also declared to be inhuman by the CC; the scope for abortion had to be widened in the interest of the choice of a pregnant mother and Parliament passed legislation which introduced freedom of choice up to 12 weeks (with lengthier possibilities) into gestation;7 same sex marriages were made possible by Parliament as ordered by the CC;8 as an illustration of the protection of individual rights, the job of an HIV positive airline host was protected by the CC; prisoners have been permitted to vote by the CC; art is protected where it is overwhelmingly present even in offensive forms: the Scorsese film, The Last Temptation of Christ may, according to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (“BCCSA”)9 at last be seen on television and, according to the Films and Publications Board, rented from video shops in DVD or video format;10 the CC has held that child sexuality or sexual poses will not be child pornography when they overwhelmingly give rise to aesthetic feelings;11 mid-night semi-explicit sex on TV is permitted by the Broadcasting Code; soft porn may be rented or bought at licensed video shops in terms of section 24 of the Films and Publications Act 1996; and religion has been held by the CC not to be a source of constitutional law. What a contrast to the scene in the Tuks library in 1965 where the minority judgment concerning When the Lion Feeds was the “sex” booty that was eagerly sought after by students!
[9] Yet, on the more conservative side, the CC has held: limits to the granting of bail have been approved as constitutional, the ban on possession of child pornography has been declared to be compatible with the Constitution in the interest of children, the ban on brothels and prostitution has, equally, been confirmed, the smoking of cannabis as part of a religious practice was not permitted, forfeiture of property used for criminal purposes has been declared to be constitutional within certain limits and the declaration of certain persons as habitual criminals has been approved, subject to the limit that such a person may not be kept in prison for longer than 15 years.

[10] What has become more prominent than ever before is the concept of the Rule of Law, which is a founding value in the Constitution. The Constitution is sovereign and not Parliament. The Pikoli12 inquiry by a Parliamentary committee illustrates well how important it is for an organ of state to function within its powers. Pikoli’s legal team is, inter alia, arguing that he has exercised his functions independently and that oversight by the Minister detracts from that independence. The matter of power is also closely related to independence of e.g. the Chapter 9 constitutional institutions, which guard human rights and honest administration. They are accountable only to Parliament. “Accountable”, of course, does not mean “answerable”. Obviously the Courts’ independence is also of cardinal importance. This is an area which, I believe, should be dealt with in detail with students and I am pleased to have heard the Dean, Prof Heyns, say that this is a special project of the Faculty. Attention should also be given to the implementation of what has been termed the “grand statements” of the Constitutional Court. It is time, e.g. to give flesh to the “freedom of speech lies the heart of democracy” statement – even if Bullard13 went out for lunch and did not return, one should, at least, say that his article was not censored but published. Attempts in 2007 by the Department of Home Affairs to bring newspapers and broadcasting under the control of the Films and Publications Board were fortunately thwarted. Vigilance in the protection of human rights is fed by knowledge and experience: and this is where a Faculty of Law should make its input.


[11] This Faculty, on the initiative of Prof Johann van der Westhuizen and his colleagues, was wise to establish the Centre for Human Rights in the late eighties. It has become known internationally and has drawn students from 40 African countries annually over the last decade. The Department of Procedure also commenced with practical training of attorneys and a law clinic was established at the beginning of the eighties. The Institute for Child Law has also been functioning with enormous success. Faculty members have been writing books and articles on a variety of subjects: Labour law (and, since he is retiring this year, explicit recognition should be given to the admirable work of Prof Fanie van Jaarsveld ), Contract, Delict, the Law of Things, Family Law, the Law of Persons, the Law of Succession, Commercial Law including Company Law, Procedural Law, Administrative law, International Law, Constitutional Law, African Constitutional Reports, to name but a few. The Faculty also commenced publishing De Jure in 1974 and the high standards of its articles have been praised nationally and internationally. I remember how we took the materials to the printers and posted the copies ourselves early in the seventies.
[12] The quality and style of lectures have changed substantially from the sixties. Dynamic integration of lecturer and student lies at the core of the studies. Lecturers are praised for their brilliant teaching and inspiration. Alumni have become professors and lecturers not only at this University. The University of the Orange Free State (Verschoor), the University of Johannesburg (Malan, Van der Merwe, Barrie and Otto), the University of Cape Town (Visser) and the University of Stellenbosch (Rabie) have all had Deans of their Faculties from the alumni of this University! Alumnus Dawie de Villiers is head of the Department of Procedure at the University of Johanesburg and Ignus Rautenbach head of Constitutional Law. Alumna Sunette Lötter is presently the head of the Department of Criminal Law and Procedure at UNISA and the post was filled before her by alumnus Johan Joubert. A substantial number of alumni and alumnae are professors at UNISA: Susan Scott, Jackie Heaton, Chris-James Pretorius, Juanita Jamneck, Luanda Hawthorne, Johann Knobel, Tomas Floyd, Leentjie de Jong, Pieter Bakker, Anneliese Roos, Neville Botha, Wessel le Roux, AMB Mangu, Peet Bekker, Estelle Hurter, Sanet Nel, Gardi van Niekerk, Michele Havenga, Roshana Kelbrick, Marie McGregor, Jopie Pretorius, Brian Rutherford, Heinrich Schulze, Johan van Niekerk, Marilize van Jaarsveld, Adriette Dekker, Tshepo Dooka, Roger Evans,Annali Loubser, Izelde van Jaarsveld. Alumnus Marinus Wiechers even became the rector of UNISA. Christof Heyns, the Dean, also teaches courses at Oxford and Georgetown. Alumni have filled a variety of judicial posts: presently they are Ezra Goldstein, Meyer Joffe, Neels Claassen, Frans Malan and Antoni Gildenhuys at the WLD, Willem van der Merwe, Ben du Plessis, Eben Jordaan, Willie Seriti, Roger Claassen, Ferdi Preller, Bill Prinsloo and Cynthia Pretorius at the TPD, (and I am pleased to add Kees van Dijkhorst, now retired, who is present tonight and Frikkie Eloff, who was Judge President of Transvaal and is an alumnus from the fourties and President of our Convocation, who is presently overseas and could not attend; of course there were also Tjibbe Spoelstra and Buddy Swart, to mention two retired judges, who were also part of the Tukkie teaching staff), Deon van Zyl at the CPD, Piet Streicher and Louis Harms at the SCA and Johann Kriegler, now retired, and Johann van der Westhuizen at the CC. As to the past at the AD: the late Chief Justice Frans Rumpff, the late Gerrie Viljoen, the late Pierre Olivier, John Trengove, Erns Jansen, Chris Joubert and André Botha JJA (all retired) were and are all alumni. Our attorney profession is also stacked with alumni, some of whom have played a prominent role in the management of the profession: the late Billy van der Merwe, Esmé du Plessis and Emil Boshoff have all been prominent in this respect and I am also pleased that Nelson Borman, an alumnus from the fifties, is with us tonight with several other attorneys and advocates. The list of senior counsel also includes many alumni: Rit van Rooyen, Wim Trengove, Henk Woudstra, Marius Helberg, Jan d’Oliveira, Mike Maritz, Bertus Bergenthuin, Dawie Fourie, Sam Maritz, Piet Oosthuizen and Rudolph du Plessis come to mind. At least 100 alumni and alumnae have a doctor’s degree from this University. Honorary doctorates have also, inter alia, been bestowed on Nelson Mandela, Vàclav Havel, Ismael Mahomed, Arthur Chaskalson, Frans Rumpff, Frikkie Eloff, Michael Corbett, Lukas Steyn, W Pittmann, John Trengove, Erns Jansen, Gerrie Viljoen, Eric Louw, John Vorster, Mort Malherbe, Eduard Hamman, Paul van Warmelo, Pierre Olivier and Alwyn Schlebush. Alumni in the Cabinet have included Hilgard Muller, Pik Botha and Alwyn Schlebusch. Louis Nel was a Deputy Minister. Thomas Langley, who is present tonight, an alumnus from the fifties, was our Ambassador in the Czech Republic from 1995-1999 and an MP for many years. Fanie van Jaarsveld was the Mayor of Pretoria in 1985. Prof Hamman, Dean of the Faculty of law 1960-64, became the Rector of the University in 1970. The famous Romanist, the late Paul van Warmelo, who was Dean of the Faculty from 1964 to 1972, spent his last years at the Bar as a senior counsel. Johan Scott, in his presentation this evening, has given a full list of Faculty members of the past and I will not repeat their names.
[13] Given the width of this Faculty’s national and international presence, I am convinced that a law degree with the word “Pretoria” after it has moved into a new era: it is supported and led by a dynamic expertise initiative which is constantly building that image both nationally and internationally. In the end I must add: a student admires a splendid and fair lecturer and he or she will return to enjoy post-graduate courses and lectures from those whom they admire. Ultimately, Dynamic Expert Teaching lies at the heart of a splendid Faculty.
I am honoured to write PRETORIA after my law degrees and regard it as a true badge of professional dignity. Congratulations to Dean Christof Heyns and his Faculty!
14 May 2008

_____




1*Talk (adapted for publication) held at the ninety year celebration of the Law Faculty 14 May 2008

 SC, BA(1963) LLB(1966) LLD(1971) (Pretoria); Emeritus Professor of Criminal Law, University of Pretoria; Chairperson: Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa 1993-; Executive Councillor of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa 2006-; Chair of the Publications Appeal Board 1980-90; Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung, Germany 1974-; Member of the Pretoria Society of Advocates (1998-2006); Deputy Chair Tuks Alumni 2002-.

2 Buren Uitgewers (Edms) Bpk en `n ander v Raad van Beheer oor Publikasies 1975(1) SA 379(C).


3 Magersfontein O! Magersfontein was unbanned in 1980 and the report is in Human en Rousseau Bpk v Die

Komitee oor Publikasies 1987(1) PH M19 (PAB); as to Kennis van die Aand, unbanned in 1982, the

report is in 1986(1) PH M14(PAB).




4 See Zandberg v van Zyl 1910 AD 302.

5 In 1964 the Synod of the NG Church showed the first signs of not supporting this thinking.

6 S v Makwanyane and Another 1995 (3) SA 391 (CC).


7 As from 4 February 1996. On the same day the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, which substituted the first interim Constitution, became operational.

8 Minister of Home Affairs v Fourie (Doctors for Life International and Others, Amici Curiae); Lesbian

and Gay Equality Project and Others v Minister of Home Affairs 2006(1) SA 524(CC).


9 [2007] Judgments Online 20976(BCAT).

10 As a result of a large number of complaints from the public, the Board did not permit screening in cinemas.

This was, with respect, an incorrect decision, since the Films and Publications Act 1996 does not permit the

Board to distinguish between different formats.


11 De Reuck v Director of Public Prosecutions WLD and Others 2004(1) SA 406(CC).

12 Pikoli is the suspended head of the National Prosecuting Authority.

13 A columnist of the Sunday Times whose contract was terminated after his column had raised issues related to

race which did not, according to the Editor- in-Chief of the newspaper, accord with the



newspaper’s philosophy.


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