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DGRU announces inaugural winners of the Judges Matter prize in excellent writing on the judiciary

The Democratic Governance and Rights Unit (DGRU), one of Africa’s leading research centres specialising in the area of judicial governance, alongside Judges Matter, is proud to present the inaugural Judges Matter Prize in Excellent Writing on the Judiciary (“The Judges Matter prize”).

The Judges Matter Prize is an effort to stimulate critical thinking on issues facing the judiciary among future lawyers and in academia. The Judges Matter Prize is awarded annually for the best essay on any issue relating to the judiciary. The prize-winning essays must address an issue in the judiciary by using original, creative thinking, accompanied by excellent writing on the topic.

The Judges Matter Prize is awarded across two categories:

  • Student Category, awarded to undergraduate and postgraduate law students registered at South African universities. This prize is worth R15 000.
  • Emerging Academic Category, awarded to an academic within their first five years of teaching and researching fulltime at a South African university. This prize is worth R20 000.

For the inaugural prize, 28 submissions were received in the Student Category, and 3 from the Emerging Academic Category. The essays were adjudicated by a three-member panel that included KwaZulu-Natal High Court Judge Dhaya Pillay and Dr Justice Madvezenge, an expert on the judiciary and socio-economic rights.


The Student Category

In the Student Category, the prize was awarded to Mhleli Khomo, a final-year law student at Rhodes University, for his essay entitled “Forging an independent judiciary in an ever-changing socio-political / legal climate: does the peremptory nature of the legislature place an unjustifiable limit on a judge’s political / religious views?”.

The essay was described by one of the judges as a “provocative[and] well-researched piece”, which laid “a basis for further debate”.

Born in Umlazi, Durban, Mhleli Khomo holds a Bachelor of Social Science from Rhodes University where he majored in Law and Economics. In 2021 he completed his LLB degree from Rhodes University, where he was on the Dean’s  Merit list in both his Penultimate and Final year. In February 2022 he joined the Rhodes Law Clinic as a candidate attorney.

Outside of work, Mhleli enjoys debating and keeping up to date with local and international current affairs.

Read Mhleli’s essay here


The Emerging Academic

In the Emerging Academic category, the prize was awarded to Jennica Beukes, a doctoral researcher at the Dullah Omar Institute, University of the Western Cape, for their essay titled “The role of politics and the appointment of judges in the constitutional court: striking a balance between legitimacy and judicial independence.” The article was commended for presenting “refreshingly new ideas”, particularly regarding the recommendations made on reforming the judicial appointments process, with the judges also praising the essay for demonstrating a “good grasp of the interconnectedness between law and politics.”

Jennica completed her LLB degree in 2017. She became associated with the Dullah Omar Institute in 2018 when she enrolled in the prestigious Law, State and Multilevel Government LLM programme. During this time, she also interned at Stellenbosch Municipality, gaining valuable hands-on experience of the procedures and processes of Local Government.  She graduated from the LLM in 2019. Jennica’s research for her LLD degree focuses on coalition governance in South African municipalities. Other research projects that she has worked on focus on federalism, corruption in municipalities, and local government in general. Jennica has worked closely with internationally renowned scholars such as Prof de Visser and Prof Steytler who are among the leading experts in Multilevel Government.

During her free time, Jennica provides mentoring to postgraduate students in other study areas, such as labour law, education and democracy.

Read Jennica’s essay here


Judges Matter Prize handover event

The inaugural Judges Matter Prize was awarded at a virtual event on Friday, 20 May 2022. The event features remarks from a member of the adjudicating panel, Judge Dhaya Pillay, and from the winners themselves.

In the build-up to and after the event, Judges Matter profile both winners plus some of the excellent entries that received honorable mentions. Follow on social media: #judgesmatterprize


About the DGRU:

The Democratic Governance and Rights Unit (DGRU) is one of Africa’s leading research centres specialising in the area of judicial governance. Based in the Department of Public law in the Law Faculty at the University of Cape Town (UCT), the DGRU’s main focus is on supporting judicial governance and providing free access to legal resources in Africa. To find out more visit: http://www.dgru.uct.ac.za/


About Judges Matter:

Judges Matter is a project of the DGRU that monitors the appointment of judges, their discipline for misconduct, and the judicial governance system in South Africa. Follow Judges Matter on www.judgesmatter.co.za and on Twitter on @WhyJudgesMatter.


Watch the Judges Matter Prize handover event: