Tuesday, December 1, 2020

“UB Law graduates are fit and proper”

Dear Editor

I feel compelled to respond to an article by one Lekgowe R. Gosego, a UB LL.B student (Gazette, 14 May). In the article, Gosego makes a number of startling allegations about the quality of UB’s Legal Education. He alleges that UB LL.B graduates are not “fit and proper,” and that some UB Law lecturers are “utterly incompetent, whole-heartedly uninspired and downright dull.”

He challenges the law society for subjecting Batswana students who have studied law in SA to bar exams on the basis that they are “not fit and proper” when the really “unfit” are UB students such as him. On the face of it, all this might be mistaken for very brave statements made by a young man who is “in the system.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Before delving into Gosego’s substantives claims, it is necessary to establish my capacity and competence. I recently completed my LL.B at UB. During my university days, I was President of the UB Law Society and member of the UB Departmental Board for 2 years. I’m also former President of the UB SRC, and was a member of the University Senate and UB Council, the highest decision-making body in the University. I have had occasion to represent Law students on many issues concerning the learning and teaching of law. If the situation was as gloomy as Gosego alleges, I would have long said so.

Firstly, the writer’s article is premised on a misconception as to the meaning of “fit and proper” and application thereof; and this lack of knowledge is very unfortunate for one making such serious allegations, as that in itself presupposes knowledge (at least the basics!). One does not write exams to be fit and proper. “Fit and proper,” (as used in the Legal Practitioners’ Act,) though wide in scope, simply means that for one to be admitted as an attorney, one must be of such a character that he/she remains worthy to be in the ranks of an honourable profession; a person of unquestionable honesty, integrity and reliability. While the content and quality of a curriculum or the competence of lecturers has nothing to do with being fit and proper, a criminal record might render someone not fit and proper. Gosego is advised to read the following cases: AG v Garekwe [1996] BLR 554; Ex Parte Gunguluza 1974 4 SA 212; S V AG [1975] 2 BLR 11.

So students who have studied in SA don’t write bar exams because they are unfit and not proper. As to the content and quality of our legal education, UB law lecturers are well qualified, and continue to produce great lawyers. Our curriculum is broad and very demanding for students and lecturers. In order to graduate, one must have at least 165 credits, and to have passed about 35 law courses. The curriculum essentially prepares students for work in the many legal fields there are, such as corporate law, international trade, International law, Banking law, Insurance law, criminal and civil law.

Legal professionals virtually study for the rest of their legal careers, and so it would be unreasonable to expect UB LL.B graduates to know everything. Our Law department has qualified staff, some of whom are eminent scholars of international repute, such as Prof. Kiggundu, Prof. Fombad, Dr. Balule, Doctor Tshosa (Member Judge of the SADC Tribunal) and Prof. Nsereko (Judge of the International Criminal Court). LL.B students have also made the university and the country proud. Last year, at the African Human rights Moot Competitions held in Senegal, I (Mishingo Jeremia) and one Baboki Dambe represented UB. Of all the 65 participating universities, from Cape to Cairo, we came fifth. In doing so, we won all our moot sessions against the universities of Lagos, Malawi, Ethiopia and the American University in Cairo.

The Law department does have its problems, the biggest of which is staff shortage. The law department always looses its staff to the corporate world, parastatals and other organizations, owing to the demand for legal professionals in our country. Usually, these will have been trained at great expense by the university. The situation is not helped by the fact that the department has not been promoted to faculty level, and university authorities must take the shame for this. The department is working hard to overcome its challenges.

I am a proud product of the UB law department, and believe that legal training in Botswana, although in need of continuous evaluation and change, is on the right course.

Gaborone

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The Telegraph December 2

Digital edition of The Telegraph, December 2, 2020.