In the middle of 1997 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme (UN DP), arranged a workshop in Kampala, Uganda on environmental litigation as part of their Joint Project on Environmental Law and Institutions in Africa. The Joint Project is currently assisting eight African countries with the adoption and implementation of national environmental laws (South Africa has apparently declined assistance, at least until the new environmental policy being developed through the Consultative National Environmental Policy Process (CONNEPP) has been finalised).
Q A reader from Pretoria asks whether taxing masters are to be treated with less respect than judges or magistrates because it may be argued that they are not officers of the courts. The question arose because it appears that taxing masters are experiencing problems with the behaviour of some attorneys and candidate attorneys. Apparently files are thrown on their desks, abusive language is directed at them, their integrity is openly questioned, their rulings are derided and they are shouted at. A The answer, in my view, is quite simple. Attorneys are taught that as officers of the courts they should treat fellow officers such as judges, magistrates, advocates and their colleagues with respect. Attorneys are also members of an honourable profession and expect to be treated with respect because the profession can function only if it creates respect to and confidence in other colleagues and members of the public.
In an earlier article (1997 DR 666) I discussed the advantages of voice recognition and, in particular, the differences between discrete and continuous speech. The response to the article has been phenomenal, leading me to conclude that the legal typist has become obsolete or unaffordable I In that article I explained that the major advantage of the continuous speech system was that, without speaking in a staccato style, you could dictate your memoirs or write your autobiography. This system is ideally suited for the taking of statements from witnesses or the preparation of lengthy documents.
A centre of the School for Legal Practice will be established in Pietersburg in 1998 in cooperation with universities and other role-players in the Northern Province. The decision of the Association of Law Societies to proceed with the school follows a recent request by members of the profession and the law faculty of the University of the North. With the opening of the school, there will be a total of seven school centres offering fourteen day and nine night programmes in Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Durban, Cape Town, East London, Johannesburg and Pietersburg. More than 1 400 graduates will have the opportunity to receive full-time vocational legal training.
The four-year LLB is due to be implemented at most South African universities in 1998. There was a concern expressed by some academics that new curricula would not be ready in time. Those who felt that the plan was ill-conceived feared that we would indeed be ready; after all, all that had to be done was to decide what to leave out.
A very important decision was handed down by a full bench of the KwaZulu-Natal high court in the matter of The Society of Advocates of Natal v JA De Freitas and Another (N) 25-9-1997 (case 2834/96 unreported). Thirion J delivered the unanimous judgment of the high court on two of the issues and PC Combrick J the unanimous decision on a third issue. I will refer to the page numbers of the typed judgments.