The Legal Advocate

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The Story of NITA International: South Africa

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Sumter_GeraldineWritten by NITA Board member Geraldine Sumter

In 1986, James E. Ferguson, II and Ken S. Broun traveled to South Africa at a time of height of the politically intensive and violent struggle to overthrow the apartheid government. They embarked upon the initial joint NITA Black Lawyers Association Trial Advocacy Program. They went to South Africa with the mission of assisting members of the Black Lawyers Association and other lawyers interested in providing legal services to the liberation struggle. That year, a number of lawyers were trained and for every year thereafter, a Trial Advocacy Program was held under the auspices of the BLA. This foray by James E. Ferguson, II and Ken S. Broun began NITA’s cooperation with other legal entities and governments around the world in providing trial advocacy training.

I first joined the America faculty in South Africa Trial Advocacy Program in 1992. Political violence and repression was still in existence. In fact, on my first two days there, Henderson Hill and I were confined to our hotel rooms as the Black Political parties had declared two days of work stoppages called a “Stay Away.” There was intense pressure for all people of color to abide by the “Stay Away.” The “Stay Away” was a huge success and another milestone in the transfer of political power.

The Individuals who participated in the BLA’s Trial Advocacy Program, both participating attorneys and judges, were all committed to the overthrow of the apartheid government and to the freedom and justice for all people. Many of the persons who received training and who provided training were later tapped by the new South African government to provide leadership and services in the new government. Many of them went to serve in the judiciary as members of the Constitutional Court (the late Arthur Chaskalson, Richard Goldstone, the late Pias Langa, and Dikgang Moseneke) and the Land Court, Justice Justice Moloto, who also serves as South Africa’s representative to the International Court at The Hague. Many former participants of the Trial Advocacy Program now serve in the High Courts, some as Presidents of their High Courts, or Deputy Presidents of the High Court, and numerous members of the Magistrate Court. After the new government, many participants were recruited to join industry as in-house counsel or to lead corporations as directors. Mojunku Gumbi, at one time a participant at NITA in the United States, went on to head the BLA as its Executive Director. She later served as the director of the Elections Commission for the first election for the new government in 1994. She was later Legal Counsel for then Deputy President Tambo Mbeki and later when Mr. Mbeki became President, she served as Special Legal Counsel and Consultant to him. Pansy Takula, also a Director of the BLA, later succeeded Mojunku Gumbi as the Director of Elections Commission. She remains in the role today and has served as consultant to their African countries on their election processes.

Over the years, the Trial Advocacy Program has been expanded to include the training of various governmental agencies.

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NITA’s team of practicing lawyers, professors and judges from around the nation dedicates its efforts to the training and development of skilled and ethical legal advocates to improve the adversarial justice system.

NITA’s Goals are to:

  • Promote justice through effective and ethical advocacy.
  • Train and mentor lawyers to be competent and ethical advocates in pursuit of justice.
  • Develop and teach trial advocacy skills to support and promote the effective and fair administration of justice.
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