The Donald Gordon Chair in International Business Law

The past few years have seen many initiatives in the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Law. Among the most significant was the creation of the Mandela Institute formed with the support of former President Nelson Mandela, himself a Wits law alumnus. The Institute’s purpose is to provide a focus for research, policy development and analysis, and advanced teaching in those areas of the law that connect South Africa to the world economy.

In the words of the Head of The Mandela Instutute, Professor David Unterhalter, “Under the auspices of the Mandela Institute, we are providing a centre of excellence to play our part in ensuring that South Africa’s legal system and our legal practitioners are equipped to engage in the world economic order. In many areas vital to economic prosperity, South Africa has a narrow skills base. As South Africa amends or introduces new legislation and reforms regulatory structures, it must not confine itself to parochial concerns: it is essential that such changes are made with an understanding of global needs and trends.”

In seeking to be a centre of excellence, The Mandela Institute needed to attract lawyers of the highest standing. A number of vital Chairs have already been endowed, including the Donald Gordon Chair of International Business Law.

As former President Mandela said at the launch of The Mandela Institute, ‘The success of South Africa depends upon its intellectual capacity. I can say with confidence that the Wits Law School is playing a significant role in helping the country move towards global success.’

As South Africa has begun to integrate into the international trading system after years of relative isolation, it faces opportunities and obstructions. South Africa must engage the WTO to its best advantage, it must negotiate bilateral trade agreements of which the EU-SA is one of the most recent examples. The benefaction from the Donald Gordon Foundation is to develop capacity in International Business Law.

Against this benefaction, Peter Solomon, a leading silk at the Johannesburg Bar, has been appointed a visiting professor for three years. He specialises in the Law of Taxation and International Taxation.

Funds from the DGFbenefaction also brought Dr Susan Marks, a professor in International Law at Cambridge University to lecture to students and staff of the Law School. She also lectured at the South African Institute of International Affairs and to the clerks at the Constitutional Court. Another visiting lecturer was Leora Blumberg, until recently the Deputy Chair of the Board on Tariffs and Trade, now consulting in Hong Kong on international trade. She lectured to the students in the international trade course, and to the Institute on China’s accession to the WTO.