The Southern African Judicial Assistance Project (SAJAP) between the Oxford Pro Bono Publico[linkme] (OPBP), University of Oxford and the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit (DGRU), University of Cape Town has been awarded a grant by the World Justice Project for supporting the national judges in the Southern African region. The grant enables one student each from University of Cape Town and University of Oxford to undertake a judicial clerkship in the apex courts of Southern African countries.

SAJAP originated after Justice Dingake, judge of the Botswana High Court, contacted DGRU for assistance in preparing his judgment in Mmusi v Ramantele, a challenge to customary laws which barred women from inheriting. The DGRU forwarded the request to OPBP which supplied Justice Dingake with extensive international and comparative law research. In October 2012, Justice Dingake delivered a landmark judgment which made substantial use of this research in striking down the discriminatory laws. Justice Dingake’s request highlighted an important need. Southern African judges have limited access to foreign and international legal materials and their heavy caseloads leave little time to undertake this research. SAJAP has been conceptualised to address this need in two ways: first, by providing high quality international and comparative law research, and second, facilitating University of Oxford and University of Cape Town students to undertake clerkships with under-resourced Southern African judges. The first component of SAJAP has been active since last year – OPBP and DGRU recently completed a comparative law research project undertaken for the Judge-President of the Namibian High Court in a constitutional law matter concerning the liability of a government in damages for the unlawful conduct of judges. The project was supervised by Professor Paul Craig, Professor of English Law, University of Oxford. The matter is currently sub judice before the court.

The World Justice Project grant specifically enables the second component of SAJAP, the first phase of which launches this summer. OPBP and DGRU are aiming to finalise clerkships for students at the courts in Namibia, Botswana and Malawi. OPBP’s project partner Vanja Karth from DGRU has been spearheading the preparations for clerkships to commence in July 2014.