Rhodes Law students to represent Africa in Geneva

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The Rhodes University ELSA Moot team, consisting of four final year LLB students, has won the African Regional Round of the European Law Students Association (ELSA) Moot Court Competition on Friday 1 April. The runner up team was from Wits University, who pleaded against Rhodes in both the preliminary and final oral rounds. Arguing a question of international trade law focussing on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM Agreement), final year law students Nkosazana Lulu Dweba, Steph Stretch, Declan Williamson and Moya Vaughan-Williamson will be representing Rhodes University and Africa in Geneva in the final oral round in Geneva in June.

Ten teams competed in what was only the third African Regional Round of the competition, hosted for the first time at Rhodes University. Participants included teams from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and South Africa. With the support of the WTO, the ELSA Moot Competition has become one of the largest and most prestigious international moot competitions for students to compete in, and a space for students to learn about the WTO’s dispute settlement system.

The Rhodes team was coached by former participants in the competition, Jamie Foreman and Tayla Waterworth, who are both LLM students at Rhodes and who competed in Geneva in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

One of the prizes for the competition is the award of a fully paid scholarship for a one year LLM degree at the University of Barcelona’s IELPO programme, which was won by Rhodes team member Nkosazana Lulu Dweba. “I was surprised when I made the team, never mind that I got best orator for the prelim and the grand final,” she humbly commented. “It was a good learning experience as there is very high quality in the competition,” she added.

The team comprised of three speakers, Williamson, Stretch and Dweba and a researcher, Vaughan-Williams, who was also the team captain. “It was an amazing experience. The other teams were really good and going up against Wits in the final was tough, but we won against them twice, first as the respondents and then as the complainants,” Vaughan-Williams explained. “We’re representing all of Africa in Geneva so I think we’ve got quite a big task ahead of us to put Africa on the map,” she said.

Rhodes law students have competed and come fourteenth in the Geneva competition in each year that Africa has been included in the competition. “I’m super excited about Geneva. We were terrified that we would be the first Rhodes team not to get through, but we exceeded all expectations. Then to be in the finals was the cherry on top,” Stretch said.

Organiser of the African Regional Round Vicky Heideman of Rhodes’ Law Faculty was very grateful for the support from various sponsors, and in particular from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) for funding the travel and accommodation requirements for all ten teams in the regional round. Only the best two or three teams from each continent are selected to compete in Geneva. The Rhodes team will be joined by the Wits team and a team from Kenya School of Law at the final oral round in Geneva, the fundraising for which is still on-going. Around €20 000 is needed to send all three teams to the finals.

Heideman lectures at Rhodes on international trade law with an interest in WTO law in particular, and her students were very grateful for her support in the competition, though she was not able to coach them due to her role as organiser. “Vicky is really enthusiastic, trade is her thing,” Stretch commented. Heideman noted the strength of the team, and is hoping that Rhodes will make the semi-finals in Geneva this year, where the team will argue the same question they were posed in the regional round. “It’s great that we are going through again.  It shows that Rhodes has a consistently high standard for mooting, as well as some very talented and dedicated students,” she said.

For Heideman the competition is also symbolically significant as an opportunity for African law students to grow in the area of trade law so as to better protect African trade interests in the global economy. “Africa has been notably under-represented from dispute settlement at the WTO and that’s largely because we don’t have the capacity. So what this competition does is it builds an awareness of the importance of this area of law,” she said.

 To help fund the three African teams to get to Geneva please visit the PayPal option on emc2.elsa.org and use as your reference African Team Participation.

 Article by Chelsea Haith

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