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SA: Enver Surty: Address by Basic Education Deputy Minister, at the Official Opening of the Fifth National Schools Moot Court Competition, University of Pretoria (08/10/2015)

9th October 2015

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Programme Director
Judges present
Officials from the different Provincial Education Departments
Distinguished guests
Educators and Learners

It gives me a great pleasure to be part of this august occasion, the Fifth National Schools Moot Court Competition.

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Programme Director, I bring all of you warm greetings from the Minister of Basic Education, the Honourable Mrs Angie Motshekga who could not make it today due to prior government commitments.  Minister Motshekga kindly asked me to deliver a message of support to this august occasion on her behalf.

Perhaps, Programme Director, it is opportune that before we proceed with today’s programme, we must pay our respect to the late retired Constitutional Court judge Thembile Skweyiya. Sadly, this son of the soil passed on suddenly. As a jurist Judge Skweyiya showed remarkable courage in the execution of his duties. His passion for justice and freedom knew no bounds. He enriched our jurisprudence immensely with a singular focus on cases dealing with civil liberties and human rights. He served the nation with great distinction as an anti-apartheid lawyer, human rights activist, Senior Counsel, Judge of the High Court as well as a Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

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Programme Director, I respectfully request that we all rise and observe a moment of silence for this true servant of the people.

All rise!

May his soul rest in peace!

I hope that not only did you have a good stay here in Pretoria but that you have also benefited immensely from the many intellectually stimulating exchanges you had yesterday during the oral argument workshop.

Programme Director; we are indebted to many partners who have worked tirelessly to make this event a success. One such partner is the Cliff Dekker Law Firm. This kind of collaboration between public and private entities shows beyond reasonable doubt that education has indeed become a societal issue. The Moot Court initiative resonates very well with our endeavour to ensure our learners get a taste of the engine rooms of their potential careers.

The Moot Court Competition gives us an opportunity to put to test the values of our Constitution in as far as the protection and advancement of human dignity is concerned.

The 2015 Problem Statement is on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community. The topic seeks to highlight some of the challenges faced by learners regarding their right to sexual orientation. The LGBTI issues are complex, diverse and in many instances misunderstood thus leading to stigma and homophobic violence. Although we have a progressive Constitution that respects this right, many of our learners are yet to fully acquaint themselves about this important right amongst their peers. Today’s topic serves to educate ourselves about right to sexual orientation in particular while simultaneously raising awareness about LGBTI rights in general.

Programme Director, South Africa is blessed in that we have people from the LGBTI community who have made significant contributions to our country, sacrificing both life and limb for the realisation of our right to be human. A leading light in this regard is none other than Judge Edwin Cameron who was also part of this Constitutional Court. Judge Edwin Cameron’s lone voice in a fight with the State to provide ARV treatment for HIV positive people captured the psyche of the nation. He was soon joined by thousands of activists and organisations such as the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in a bid to change HIV trajectory of this country. We all know that the State finally capitulated and today South Africa has the largest ARV roll-out in the world.  

Equally important is that the Moot Court Competition fits naturally with the National Development Plan (NDP) goals and the Action Plan to 2014: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025 especially Outcomes 14, which enjoins us to focus on fostering Constitutional values in our curriculum. Hence we view this competition as a platform to teach our learners about the sacred covenant that we signed up for when we adopted the 1996 Constitution. Our task through words and deeds is to propagate the values espoused in the Constitution as the highest law in the land. We must do this in an easy to understand manner. It must be relevant and actionable manner in the context of human rights and values enshrined in our Constitution. Thus, it makes the Bill of rights come alive for learners when they engage with the topic.

To illustrate the importance of both the Constitution and Constitutional Court, the late President Nelson Mandela enjoined the Constitutional Court jurists to uphold the values of the Constitution and to discharge their duties with fear and favour.

President Mandela speaking on the morning of 14 February 1995, during the unveiling, in the foyer of the Constitutional Court, of a commemorative plague that depicts the Court's logo - a representation of the African concept of justice under a tree said:

“The guarantee of the fundamental rights and freedoms for which we have fought so hard, lies in your hands. We look to you to honour the Constitution and the people it represents. We expect from you, we demand of you the greatest use of your wisdom, honesty and good sense, no short cuts, no easy solutions. In the end you have only the Constitution and your conscience on which you can rely. We look upon you to serve both without fear or favour”

In this regard, the Moot Court Competition offers a platform to our young people to ignite their upright moral conscience and to instil a sense of social justice so that the future of our democracy thrives and matures.

In conclusion, as the Department of Basic Education, we hope and trust that this joint initiative with the Department of Justice, Foundation for Human Rights, University of Pretoria and other key partners and stakeholders will serve as a continual platform to ensure that learners’ real life setting is free from discrimination. This platform must meaningfully provide our young bright sparks with equal opportunities so that they can become midwives for the respect of human rights and soldiers for social change and transformation of our  society into a truly world class Constitutional state.

I would like to wish all of you an exciting and successful session.

I thank you.

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