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Remembering Judge Ramarumo Monama

- Palesa Madi

CALS Deputy Director Palesa Madi honours one of our founding staff members, Ramarumo Monama, at a ceremonial court sitting at the Johannesburg High Court


Thank you, Deputy Judge President.

Good afternoon everyone.

I’d like to acknowledge the family members of Judge Monama, his friends, as well as the honorable members of the judiciary.

My name is Palesa Madi, the Deputy Director at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, otherwise known as CALS, at Wits University. 

As many of you would know, Judge Monama was one of the founding staff members at CALS.

After having read CALS’ annual reports for the period 1978 to 1983, I have the honor, this afternoon, of briefly reflecting on Judge Monama’s time at CALS:

  • Judge Monama often appeared on behalf of persons who had ‘violated’ the then pass laws in the pass courts. Because of his assistance, many people were acquitted.
  • In order for people to comply with the then Urban Areas Act, judge Monama assisted people in obtaining the necessary ‘qualifications to remain in the urban areas.
  • Judge Monama provided advice to the University staffing office about the problems that affected black staff members.
  • In response to the discriminatory laws and practices in the legal profession, Judge Monama initiated research looking into the challenges that black lawyers faced, such as the difficulty in securing articles in firms and admission challenges.
  • Judge Monama also made time to supervise students conducting research in the ‘Aspects of Public Law’ course.
  • As mentioned by Mr Mapheto, one of the key projects he worked on at CALS, was research that he led, on the lack of fair trial processes in the then, Johannesburg ‘Pass Courts’ or the Commissioner’s Courts.
  • As a result of this research, crucial procedural changes took place in the Commissioner’s courts. The research gave rise to the provision of free legal services, for people charged under the pass laws in the commissioner’s courts.

It is with immense pride that I say that many other distinguished lawyers from CALS, have followed in the footsteps of Judge Monama and that to date, CALS (now a 44-year-old organization) continues to use the same tools as he did – strategic litigation, research and advocacy to challenge discriminatory laws and policies. 

Just yesterday, CALS was in the High Court in Pretoria challenging parts of the Legal Practice Act, which prevents BProc graduates from being admitted as attorneys.

My colleagues and I are very grateful to Judge Monama and his colleagues for having founded CALS and I hope that at the time of his passing, he was proud of the institution. 

As I come to a close, I’d like to repeat what my colleagues in the legal profession have said about Judge Monama. He has been described as a brilliant jurist and lawyer, principled, diligent, committed to the betterment of people’s lives, he revered education, he was gentle yet was not afraid to speak truth to power, he was kind and had a great sense of humour.  

I pray that Judge Monama’s family, friends and colleagues have a peace that surpasses all understanding, during this painful time.

May his soul rest in peace.