About the YM Public Interest Award
At an annual memorial lecture at UKZN in honour of Victoria and Griffiths Mxenge, who were both assassinated by the apartheid regime and had worked closely with Yunus, Judge Dhaya Pillay proposed the establishment of the Yunus Mahomed Public Interest Award.
The Yunus Mahomed Public Interest Award for published articles on Public Interest Law and Business Ethics strives to encourage students to study and practise law in a manner that promotes the advancement of the public interest, transparency and accountability, to cultivate and entrench democracy and best practices.
As a lawyer, Yunus committed his talents to promoting human rights, combating poverty and discrimination. Together with other activists, he organised and mobilized communities to protest against these injustices, which provided significant opportunities for public interest litigation. They launched legal challenges against Group Areas segregation, discriminatory systems of levying property rates, and politically repressive arrests, detentions and convictions. Public interest litigation was not viewed as an end in itself, but rather formed part of the broader movement to achieve democracy.
Despite the end of apartheid in 1994, public interest litigation remains relevant in order to facilitate access to justice, to basic goods and services, and to the defence of fundamental rights in order to animate the rights enshrined in our Bill of Rights.
It provides an avenue for constructive engagement between the providers of goods and services, usually an organ of state, and affected communities, usually poor and marginalised groups. Without public interest litigation, the aspirational objectives of our Constitution may not materialise. Moreover, conducting research and publishing articles that promote human rights, ethical conduct and legal activism contribute to the ongoing discourse on transformation and development of our society.
The purpose of the Yunus Mahomed Public Interest Award therefore, is to encourage and reward law students’ engagement in Public Interest Law and Business Ethics through offering writing prizes at each participating university, as well as an annual national prize. Yunus recognised the empowering value of communicating without legalese. Hence this award also promotes clear, coherent, concise and precise writing.