Myrle Vanderstraeten joined Gleason Publications in October 1998. Assistant editor to David Gleason on without prejudice from October 2001 until March 2011, Myrle took over the reins as editor in April 2011.
Passionate about the publication, she has revelled in the challenges to maintain the magazine’s reputation as “a rare source of valuable information” and views the entry into the digital world as an exciting step that will expand without prejudice’s footprint into other jurisdictions.
The anniversary of such auspicious beginnings should be celebrated in style, but unfortunately, this is precluded by the current state of our world. Be that as it may, this anniversary is an opportunity to acknowledge some very special people, and should not pass without comment and thanks to those who have made without prejudice possible. In particular, I would like to thank the magazine's core sponsors, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr and Webber Wentzel.
The 30th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's 'long walk to freedom' was commemorated globally on the 11th of February. There are few people who were old enough to recognise how momentous the event was, who do not remember that moment, when he walked out of jail, and exactly where they were.
At heart an optimist, I hoped that 2020 – the start of a new decade – would bring with it not just promises of opportunities but also tangible change. Thwarted before we began… We returned home from our holiday to no water – a burst water pipe on William Nicol; then at 20:00 no electricity and lo and behold at 08:00 the next morning no electricity – again. Optimism went swiftly down the drain.
For a brief moment South Africans stood together wherever they were, rugby fan or not, united by the joy of the Springboks' victory at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. For that moment all the adjectives that are used to describe and divide us fell away – but only for 'one moment in time'.
One of the most serious challenges for man is that of the environment: cleaning up the existing pollution as best as possible and leaving behind a habitable world for future generations. In this issue of without prejudice there are seven articles that focus on some of these challenges.
The last of our "Top Student" features appears this month. The Class of 2013 graduates appeared in the April 2014 feature. That year there was an increase in the number of men who were top students, although there were still more women in total, and globally women outnumbered men when it came to enrolling to study law, which led Mary Curnock Cook, Chief Executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service in the UK, to say men were becoming a disadvantaged group when it came to university applications.
Our annual feature on the top final year LLB students is always interesting for a variety of reasons, for me not least because there often seems to be a similarity in their characteristics, and I enjoy the five and ten year on catch-ups to see whether students still display the traits I may have observed when they graduated.
Without prejudice is delighted to welcome to the Sponsorship Group, MacRobert. In 1989 two law practices –MacRobert, de Villiers and Hitge and Lunnon and Tindall – merged to form MacRobert de Villiers Lunnon and Tindall. The firms have a 123-year-old history, making it one of the oldest law practices in Gauteng. The rather long practice name was shortened to MacRobert Inc in 2000 but the history of the other founding partners' lives on in the consulting rooms named after them in which photographs, documents and other memorabilia can be found.
2018 has been a particularly tough year for most people. In fact, it is a long time since South Africans have said "What a great year". For most citizens, and foreigners who contribute in so many ways to our economy and culture, it feels like a long, hard slog to nowhere. And when those in the infamous "corridors of power" continue to behave this year in the same way as they did last year – and the year before that down the tunnel of time – it is little wonder that people question the law and the length of time it takes to provide justice, if it ever comes.
It is strange that, as is frequently commented, gloom and doom sells. Perhaps in South Africa we are so tired of endless litanies of tales of the darker side to people that news of positive events are what we crave. In this issue we carry an article by Douglas Ainslie on the "silicosis class action". Not only was this the first class action settlement of its kind in South Africa, but it also represents a commitment on the part of all parties to reach an agreement that was fair to all in a particularly complex matter. Suspensive conditions are still to be signed and the matter has not been finalised, but it is hoped that the ongoing work involved, including finding techniques to improve underground dust and the consequential health risks, will be tackled with the same dedication.
May has been an interesting month – the first 100 days in the hot seat for President Ramaphosa, S&P Global Ratings affirmed South Africa's sub-investment grade credit rating but kept its stable outlook, and decidedly less positive – the release of the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking and the World Economic Forum Competitiveness Index 2017-2018.
Getting the April issue of without prejudice "to bed" remains a challenge. The Easter weekend is a little like the Christmas break and deadlines seem to have less impact than in other months. I apologise for this issue arriving late but I hope you will enjoy reading the content and will also find it useful.
The headlines of South Africa's newspapers emphasise why the mood in the country is so gloomy. Those who respond by saying everyone should look to the positive rather than concentrating on the negative are, of course, right; but until such time as those who are in positions of leadership are demonstrably ethical, the permeable feeling of pushing against an overwhelming tide will remain.
In a break from tradition, without prejudice features the Top Students of 2016 in this May issue instead of April. The #Feesmustfall movement last year, the consequent disruption of both classes and exams meant that the universities were unable to guarantee being able to let me know the names of their top students in time to contact them and for the graduates to respond.
If one were to judge the country by newspaper headlines over the past month it would be for the three Cs – Crime, Corruption and Cowardice. I think that another C can now be added – Conniving. As we were about to go to print news broke of President Zuma's cabinet reshuffle, by 7h00 the rand has dropped 5% in value. Yet again "cry the beloved country".
March is the without prejudice edition in which we traditionally carry the annual rankings of the legal advisers in M&A and general corporate finance for the previous year. We are delighted with the synergy that exists between the legal award sponsor, JUTA, and sister publication DealMakers under whose banner the DealMakers Gala Awards takes place.
According to the Chinese, 2017 is the year of the Rooster. Unfortunately, according to those who predict what is on the menu, while there may be positives to the year of the Rooster, it will also provide "conflicts, controversy and plenty of debate". Does that sound a little like "same old, same old" to South Africans?
Well, here we are at the end of 2016. It has been an interesting year punctuated by surprise political change globally. In Britain, the High Court ruled that parliamentary approval and a vote from the MPs is required in order for Article 50 to be triggered. Lord Chief Justice Thomas ruled that the government's arguments are "contrary to fundamental constitutional principles of the sovereignty of parliament".
There are a few things that have taken place in the past month that will probably stay indelibly printed on my mind. The first is the ongoing student protests. This issue will no doubt be added to some social event conversation lists in the "do not" column – "Do not discuss politics, religion or student protests".
without prejudice turns 15
October marks the 15th anniversary of the first issue of without prejudice. A comment by Dr Christel Marshall of Spoor & Fisher made me realise that many attorneys will have no idea how many years the magazine has been published or, for that matter, anything about its provenance. It was also her observation that lawyers would find this interesting, that has resulted in this potted history of without prejudice.
This month's feature on Business Rescue is interesting and could prove particularly valuable to many people in this uncertain economic climate. I am always very grateful to the many practitioners who find time to write articles that will benefit others considerably. It is no mean feat for the attorneys, their support staff and my contacts to provide these articles. Work hours are long and full and there is seldom time left over for articles. I do recognise the encroachment into private time, without prejudice and the magazine's readers are ultimately the winners.
June has been a month of unusual events.
It was going to be close but I doubt many people thought Britain would vote to leave the EU. Close to home, in response to my question what the view was at a large international corporate in London, my daughter answered – "shock and disbelief". Not everyone feels it's doom and gloom, and friends whose opinion I value, who are astute and successful, believe it is the right move.