A Mpumalanga High Court (Mbombela) ruling favoring a law graduate who was denied admission as an advocate for five years has been welcomed as a step closer to free education. The court declared as unconstitutional a rule that forced law graduates to produce copies of their qualifications before being admitted as attorneys or advocates. A Cape Times report says the High Court 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 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.
Makamu had submitted a record showing that he obtained an LLB, but this was unacceptable to the Mpumalanga Legal Practice Council, notes the Cape Times report. ‘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's 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 every poor graduate in the country,’ said Makamu's attorney, Sebastian Bhila, adding they pursued the case to demonstrate the importance of free education. ‘Basically, Makamu was not supposed to be educated because he had no money to pay for his fees. It's worse that after obtaining his LLB he was now being denied access to his degree certificate because he has no money. This rule was generally irrational. Hopefully, it will apply in all the fields of study,’ Bhila said.