Tshwarelo Hunter Mogakane
THE MPUMALANGA Division of the High Court has declared as unconstitutional a rule that forced law graduates to produce copies of their qualifications before being admitted as attorneys or advocates.
In its landmark ruling handed down last week, the High Court in Mbombela declared that Rule 17.6.3 of the Legal Practice Act was unconstitutional in that it unfairly prejudiced graduates against finding gainful employment due to student debt.
The High Court ruled in favour of Lindumusa Makamu, who graduated from the University of Venda in 2017, with a debt of R15 000 in student fees.
“I am relieved that Rule 17.6.3 has been declared unconstitutional. This is a victory that will open employment doors for other graduates who remain unemployed because their degree certificates are being withheld due to lack of funds.
“This was a David versus Goliath kind of legal battle spanning over a year. The matter was removed from the court roll twice. It was re-enrolled the third time, leading to the rule being declared unconstitutional. My legal representative at the time, advocate Sydney Nkuna, suggested that we approach somebody at the bar to help us escalate the matter because it was not only about me but thousands of graduates facing a similar situation in different corners of the country,” Makamu said outside court.
Makamu’s attorney, Sebastian Bhila, heaped praises on the High Court.
“The nation will forever be grateful to the Mpumalanga High Court. Mr Makamu previously contacted the National Student Financial Aid Scheme on numerous occasions and they always told him to file an acknowledgement of debt and submit it to the university finance department, however, nothing happened.
“Bhila Attorneys eventually offered to settle Mr Makamu’s fees but he declined the offer and asked that we proceed with the matter and challenge the rule as he is not the only graduate who is facing unpaid university fees. This issue affects each and every poor graduate in the country,” said Bhila.
University spokesperson Dr Takalani Dzaga said the university would comment as soon as they have studied the judgment.