Learning the law in the land of Mandela

  • Tuesday, April 29, 2014

    By Clifford Glover
    CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - (April 29, 2014) - As a proud alumnus of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, it is my pleasure to share what I have been up to since graduating in 2012. I am finishing my second year at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Through the law school, I traveled (to) and lived in Cape Town, South Africa this semester.

    Clifford Glover_South Africa 2014I worked at Legal Aid South Africa - the equivalent to the public defender in the United States. I was first posted at the Bellville Justice Center 25 minutes outside Cape Town, where I spent seven weeks of my internship. The remaining six weeks I worked at the High Court Unit in downtown Cape Town.

    While at the justice center, I worked mostly alongside an attorney assigned to the Specialized Commercial Crimes Unit. Most defendants (called the "accused" here) were charged with fraud or government corruption. It was intriguing to observe court in a different country.

    It was also interesting to see how much America's influence has on the small things of another country. In the Specialized Commercial Crimes Court, the magistrate is referred to as "Your Worship." Many of the accused and witnesses, however, addressed the magistrate as "Your Honor," what we say in America.

    The High Court Unit deals with the most serious matters. I sat in on and observed trials of people accused of heinous crimes. I sometimes found myself shaking hands of (accused) murderers.

    On the civil side of the High Court, I researched and analyzed a novel question of South African constitutional law dealing with the intersection of the right to dignity and freedom of expression on social media.

    I also did a lot of sightseeing. I love hiking and joined a hiking club. And there are no wild animals running about.

    I took a cable car to Table Mountain, toured Robben Island, and went to too many braais (barbeques) to count. Even though I saw a lot, I did not see everything in Cape Town. I plan to return.

    I went to Cape Town expecting to get a sense of the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela. This man is iconic. The civic center in the middle of town has Mandela's face on it; it can be seen from miles away. There are many places within the city where one can see Mandela's impact. His dream is far from being realized, however, especially on the socioeconomic level.

    This experience was very rewarding. Cape Town is a beautiful city - in my view the most beautiful city I have visited. I will be returning home soon, where I will have more time to reflect on my experiences and ponder what I took away from this remarkable internship opportunity.

    The problems we face in America are the same issues that face South Africa, just on a bigger scale. Both countries have a long walk towards true socioeconomic equality. I loved my time Cape Town and will never forget my time there, but look forward to returning to Maryland. There is no place like home. 
    Clifford B. Glover III of Silver Spring graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in history. He was a member of the Richard A. Henson Honors Program.