The Rhodes University Faculty of Law has the pleasure of celebrating the award of the US Fulbright Foreign Student Program Scholarship to its alumnus and former Andrew W Mellon Lecturer, Mr Tladi Marumo.
The Fulbright Program, founded in 1946, is the flagship international education exchange programme sponsored by the US government. The Program is designed to increase mutual understanding, collaboration and innovation by attracting some of the world’s greatest minds. Being one of the most highly competitive and prestigious scholarships in the world, several Fulbright alumni have gone on to become world leaders, and win Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes.
In its very recent June 2018 issue, acknowledging the important work of 200 Young South Africans, Mail & Guardian described Marumo, a young attorney, legal academic and human rights advocate, as “a force of nature committed to social change” and “one of South Africa’s brightest legal minds”. When asked about his life, Marumo prefers to describe it with the words of his favourite author, Toni Morrison, who wrote, “Your life refuses summation – and invites contemplation instead.”
Marumo grew up in Sharpeville, during the politically volatile transitionary period of the 1980s and early 1990s, known in South African political history as ‘The Vaal Reef Violence’.On what inspired his legal career, Marumo stated, “That difficult period, and the subsequent negotiations towards constitutional democracy that resulted in the adoption of the final Constitution signed in Sharpeville on 10 December 1996, demonstrated the contrasting powers of the law for me: the law can be an instrument for oppression or social change. It was also during this period that I first saw and heard in person this man they called “Mandela” - who was the tall and statuesque personification of a township political legend. He was a revolutionary lawyer.”
To pursue his undergraduate studies at Rhodes, a then teenaged Marumo applied for the Emfuleni Mayoral Scholarship, in which he declared his intention to do “something important in the world for humanity”. So compelling was his conviction, that he was awarded the scholarship and appointed as the first student legal advisor in the Mayor’s office.
This directly exposed him to the constitutional challenges of local government service delivery. Upon graduation, Marumo’s legal practice at Webber Wentzel, Hogan Lovells, and Norton Rose Fulbright, brought into focus the intersection of mine health and safety, corporate and human rights law. His work inspired him to examine how the class action, a relatively novel legal procedure in South African law, can enhance collective access to justice for the promotion of human rights. He returned to Rhodes University as a lecturer and LLM candidate. Supervised by Professor Rosaan Krüger, his thesis, Class Actions as a Means of Enhancing Access to Justice in South Africa (2016) was described by one examiner, a leading South African Senior Counsel and Professor of Law, as “novel and potentially ground-breaking”. Recently, Marumo authored the first Mine Health and Safety Practical Guidance (LexisNexis, 2017) which considers mine health and safety, class actions and human rights law. A rule of law and democracy advocate, he serves as the youngest Director on the Board of the Good Law Foundation with amongst others, former judge Mervin King, former Minister of Justice Dr Penuell Maduna, and Advocate Dali Mpofu SC.
Marumo has been admitted, as a Fulbright Student, into the 5-year Doctor of Juridical Science (JSD) Program in International Human Rights Law, at the Centre for Civil and Human Rights, at the University of Notre Dame, Law School. Notre Dame consistently ranks as one of the top universities in the world, and entry into this JSD Program is highly selective, with only one or two global candidates admitted annually.
His doctoral research will conduct a comparative study of US class action jurisprudence, to develop the South African class action model on litigation challenges related to international human rights. On completion of the JSD, he intends to practice as an Advocate, teach and publish as a Law Professor, in this field in South Africa.
Constitutional Court Justice Sisi Khampepe congratulated Marumo on this achievement and emphasised the importance of his legal work for South Africa. “I have no doubt that you will come back and continue the legacy of being a remarkable South African Fulbright Scholar and serve your people with pride,” Khampepe said.