2021 Yunus Mohamed Public Interest Award Winners

2021-09-01

Many congratulations are extended to authors and UP alumnae Mankhuwe Caroline Letsoalo, Zenia Pero, and Sohela Surajpal for winning the Yunus Mohamed Public Interest Award for their publications in the Pretoria Student Law Review.

Letsoalo and Pero co-authored a paper titled 'Historically White Universities and the White Gaze: Critical Reflections on the Decolonisation of the LLB Curriculum' in the 2020 PSLR Special Edition which conceptualised the need to decolonise higher education, particularly the LLB curriculum, in South Africa. In her article congratulatory letter, Judge Dhaya Pillay, Founder of the Yunus Mahomed Public Interest Award noted the following:

Your article contributes to debates about decolonising education following upon the #feesmustfall and #afrikaansmustfall student protests in 2015 and 2016. Using the University of Pretoria, mainly, you evaluate the institutional landscape of historically white universities. You caution against falling into the trap of “white gaze” an “ocular metaphor” for the influence of white academics in the process of decolonization.

Letsoalo holds an LLB from the University of Pretoria and is currently an LLM candidate in Constitutional Law and Legal Philosophy at the University of the Free State. She is an aspiring legal academic and has, in addition to her many accolades, served as the Vice-Chairperson for the University of Pretoria’s Law House. Pero completed both her LLB and LLM degrees at the University of Pretoria. She is currently a pupil advocate at the Johannesburg Society of Advocates with the Victoria Mxenge Group of Advocates.

Surajpal's paper titled 'Dismantling the Status Quo: Prohibiting Unfair Discrimination on The Grounds of Poverty under Capitalism' was published in the 2020 PSLR Annual Edition and criticised prevailing capitalist laws that discriminate against persons on the ground of poverty. Judge Pillay commended Surajpal’s position on outlining poverty as a ground of discrimination and further noted that the call to radical decision-making and policy development is a progressive step towards addressing capitalism which furthers this discrimination. Surajpal holds an LLB from the University of Pretoria and an LLM from the UP Centre for Human Rights. She is currently a clerk at the Constitutional Court of South Africa and is completing her clerkship under Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga.

Both papers can be accessed on the website’s archives.

The authors received their certificates as well as a cash prize during a virtual ceremony on the 30th of August, 2021. Professor Ntombizozuko Dyani-Mhango, the programme director and Head of UP Public Law Department, commended the winners on their critical thinking and practical application of the topics outlined in their papers. In her keynote speech, Judge Dhaya Pillay noted the importance of transformative constitutionalism and congratulated the winner on writing and engaging on prevailing societal issues which highlighted these issues.

Both Professor Elsabe Schoeman (UP Law Dean) and Professor Charles Maimela (UP Deputy Dean) also congratulated the winners on their exceptional achievements and also commended the winners on their well-deserved accolades as young stalwarts in the field of law.

The Award is open to both undergraduate and postgraduate students from four participating universities: University of Cape Town; University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of the Free State, and University of Pretoria. There are three categories and prizes to the award: A local award of a publication in a known peer-reviewed journal (R5 000); a local award of a publication in a newspaper or practice journal with national circulation (R3 000); and a national award (overall winner) chosen from the recipients of the local award of peer-reviewed journal articles (R10 000). The best articles are selected by a committee of academics from the participating universities and the Founder of the Award, Justice Dhaya Pillay.