26 April 2023 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Faculty of Law doctoral recipients produce impactful research and increase the number of UFS academic staff with PhDs. From the left; Dr Martie Bloem; Dr Kudzai Mpofu, and Dr Anthea-Lee September-Van Huffel.

Our vision is that by 2034, the proportion of academic staff with PhDs will increase to 75%. With each graduation ceremony, the University of the Free State (UFS) is moving closer to making this a reality. Our aspirations of becoming a research-led institution that prides itself on academic excellence, quality, and impact, are outlined in Vision 130, which is the strategic intent to reposition the UFS for its 130th anniversary.

This year’s April graduation saw a general total of 94 PhDs being conferred, which is a significant growth compared to the 84 conferred during last year’s April graduation ceremonies. 

On 20 April 2023, three of the ten candidates conferred the new title of ‘Dr’ by the Faculty of Law, were UFS academic staff. Dr Kudzai Mpofu (Research Assistant in the Department of Mercantile Law), Dr Anthea-Lee September-Van Huffel (Private Law lecturer), and Dr Martie Bloem (Private Law lecturer) were just a few of many UFS academics to receive their doctoral degrees this autumn.

Saving small businesses through quality research 

Dr Mpofu's study contributes to the development of business rescue legislation aimed at restructuring small businesses in financial distress. He used a comparative research methodology to evaluate the business rescue models of small enterprises in Kenya, the United Kingdom, the United States, and South Africa. 

In his thesis, titled: A business rescue model for unincorporated business entities in South Africa, he proposed a business rescue model that provides eligibility criteria, a procedural framework consisting of a step-by-step rescue process, and an institutional framework addressing the roles/duties of the debtor, business rescue practitioner, and the judiciary in ensuring that unincorporated business entities are rehabilitated.

Part of the Vision 130 plan is to enhance research capacity and capabilities by placing a greater emphasis on the balance between research, teaching, and learning for impact. Dr Mpofu is driven by the desire to make an impact.
“I am motivated to use my expertise and research to make a positive impact on society. I look forward to applying my research findings to real-world problems, engaging with policy makers, industry professionals, and community organisations, and making meaningful contributions to society through my academic work,” he said.

Interrogating government’s regulation of South Africa’s natural resources 

Dr September-Van Huffel’s research study, titled: A critical investigation of state custodianship and its implications for the South African property regime, evaluates the potential for change in the interaction between the government as public trustee or custodian and private property holders as far as land reform is concerned.

Her thesis investigates a state custodianship approach to rural agricultural land, particularly within the context of land reform initiatives and increased regulatory control over natural resources such as water, minerals, and land for public interest; and the efficacy of the construct of state custodianship should it be applied to land as a natural resource. Her research considers the socio-political basis for the legal construct of state custodianship, and whether this novel construct has proven capable of delivering transformative outcomes such as equitable redistribution.

Advocating for diversity to transform the legal system

With her thesis, titled: The requirement of ‘fit and proper’ for the legal profession: a South African perspective, Dr Bloem challenges the entry criteria for practising law.

“With this thesis, I challenge the current understanding and application of the ‘fit and proper’ requirement for admission to legal practice, finding that it is superficial and one-dimensional. I argue for the re-imagining of the requirement to allow for diversity and for the critical thinking needed to enable transformation of the legal profession.”

Dr Bloem adds, “The study draws a direct link between objectives such as public interest, access to justice, and social justice. I also propose that being ‘fit and proper’ should be a continuous responsibility of all legal professionals and informed by constitutional values, not mere compliance with fixed rules of conduct. With this thesis, I intend to contribute to the transformation of the legal profession as well as legal education.”

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