Africa Round of the Manfred Lachs Moot Court Competition: Virtually

On the 30 June 2021, the University of Pretoria was announced as the Winners of the Africa Region Round of the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition and Makerere University took second place.

This year’s competition was hosted virtually by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) and featured the following 8 universities across the Continent,  which registered for the Competition, namely University of Sierra Leone (Sierra Leone), Makerere University (Uganda), University of Pretoria, University of South Africa, Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria), University Of Nigeria-Nsukka (Nigeria), and the University of Lagos (Nigeria). Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, only the above-mentioned universities managed to compile their duly completed Memorials (heads of arguments) to participate and compete in the Space Law Moot Court Competition, virtually.

The Memorials for the Competition were judged by private Counsels Adv Patrick Sekhula, Adv Icho Kealotswe-Matlou, Adv. Nompumelelo Nzimande, and Dr Maria Nonyana-Mokabane of the dtic.

The 2021 problem concerning questions related to a “Case Concerning Mega-Constellations, Autonomous Space Operations and Freedom of Scientific Investigation”, which exposed the students to novel and topical idea of free access to space. It gave students an opportunity to debate the application of the outerspace Treaties as well as the flavour of the future developments for mega-constellations in outerspace, and their impact.

The Competition is a simulation of a fictional dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations.

The Competition aims to promote the interest, involvement and knowledge of Space Law amongst students by providing a fair and competitive environment for the exchange of thoughts and the deepening of understanding of Space Law. The Competition encourages further development on the subject matter of Space Law in the curriculum of academic institutions and assists participating countries in developing technical legal capacity by preparing the next generation of space lawyers.

The Competition is organised annually under the auspices of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), in four regions; viz (Africa, North America, Europe and Asia Pacific) and presents an opportunity for university students in the areas of law and science fields, to engage on legal policy and regulatory aspects in the highly specialised area of Space Law and related fields such as aviation, aerospace and telecommunications.

The University of Pretoria team, which consists of Meesrs. Thuwaybah Moses, Rorisang Moyo, and Thubelihle Dumisa who were coached by Nicholas Pieter du Toit, will now represent the Africa Region competing at the World Finals, which are customarily held to coincide with the International Astronautical Congress (IAC). The 2021 World Finals are scheduled from 25-29 October 2021, to coincide with the 72nd IAC in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the African Regional Rounds were assessed on the basis of memorials submitted by the various teams, and the envisaged plans are afoot for the World Rounds also to continue and be held virtually.

South Africa and the dtic in particular, takes great interest in this particular area of Space because all industries should be regulated for orderliness, safety, and environmental concerns and above all peaceful use of outerspace as South Africa is an active member of the United Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outerspace.