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.
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.
The last of the Top Student features for 2016 appears in this issue of without prejudice. Many of them have in common with the Class of 2006 the desire to set off on the road less travelled by LLB graduates. What they do not have in common is jobs abroad – perhaps a sign of the global economy.
This month, I was personally challenged with the very topical issue of where one draws the line between expressing a genuinely held opinion and offending people. without prejudice received an interesting and well written article for inclusion in this issue of the magazine.
It was inevitable that the Public Protector's powers would be tested before the Constitutional Court – though few could quite imagine the ensuing crisis, which shows no sign of abating. Demands for the President's resignation have been multitudinous, and an impeachment process played out unsuccessfully in parliament.
This month we include not only the Awards made to legal advisers in both M&A and general corporate finance on 16 February at the annual DealMakers Gala Awards by sister publication DealMakers, but also a feature on the topic of Mergers and Acquisitions. The aspects covered are just a few of those essential to a successful deal.
The year ahead is likely to be challenging but there are already a couple of interesting events to chew over, including the anticipated departure of Barclays from ABSA and Bidvest's plan to bring its Foodservice business onto the JSE.
Efficient productivity, a strong currency (and no, not so strong that exports suffer), a lack of corruption, enthusiastic foreign investment, a confident business sentiment and sensible planning all mean increased job creation and low crime levels. Do we have this – no.
August 10 in South Africa is National Women's Day. It is wonderful to have a day dedicated to the celebration of role of women in society: celebrating what we have achieved globally regardless of diverse cultures or religious background and acknowledging what many women have endured and continue to endure. We are very grateful to the many brave women who, frequently against great odds, have stood-up for equality, universal suffrage and a better life for all women, particularly those who still, in this 21st century, continue to be considered "lesser beings".
There was a time when I was suddenly really proud to be South African. I remember the queue in which we gladly stood for the referendum that sounded a resounding "yes" to change. I remember the defining moment when Nelson Mandela took office as the first president of a democratic South Africa. The queues that snaked round the suburbs for the first election.
Each year without prejudice carries three Top Student features: those who graduated the previous year, five year's on and 10 year's on, although not in that order. This year NWU Potchefstroom is included and so the reach of the magazine grows. We were disappointed not to be able to accommodate UNISA which expressed an interest in being included but the audit of their results takes place at the end of March and so precluded those top students from participating in the feature.
The DealMakers Gala Awards is a must-attend event for the M&A and general corporate finance industry. The date is diarised 12 months in advance and the competition is fierce in a very tough environment. Deals are hard fought, the work is complex, the hours are long and those working on the deals need to have a special "something" in order to see what others may not, to be innovative while being meticulous and to be able to persuade all the parties that the vision is worth striving for. Lawyers are very much a part of this "sexy" industry.
"Keep Calm and Carry On" will certainly need to become a mantra for South Africans in 2015. Eskom has implemented load shedding as a permanent feature because "The power grid is extremely constrained and will remain so for the rest of the summer." The reason – unforeseen technical problems at power stations. It is difficult to understand "unforeseen" when Eskom has had seven years since the last power crisis to get its house in order.
There was another 100 year anniversary this year – that of income tax. It is said that heated debate followed the introduction of the resolution placed before Parliament by Minister of Finance and Defence, Jan Smuts. Quite understandable... Finally a divided House saw 64 "aye" votes to 31 "nays".
It would be unthinkable not to commemorate World War One. The WWI feature in this issue of without prejudice is our small tribute to those who fought in what was then described as the Great War; the war to end all wars. The four years from 1914 to 1918 brought untold loss and suffering to thousands of individuals, families and countries. I must thank Advocate John Myburgh who has intricately described the events that led to the declaration of War.
In discussions with lawyers in various fields, candidate attorneys and from comments received from graduates who have appeared in our Top Student feature over the past few years, a missing link has increasingly been brought to the fore: a need for law students to recognise how early they must apply for vacation programmes and articles if they are to have a snowball's hope in hell of getting articles.
Headline after headline this month has been of disappointing economic data. What began in August 2007 and became known as the American sub-prime crisis, evolved into a global credit crisis by the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2008. In September 2008 Nouriel Roubini observed, “Whenever there is a systemic banking crisis there is a need to recapitalise the banking/financial system to avoid an excessive and destructive credit contraction.
Crime has dominated headlines in the past few weeks. It is depressingly apparent that our law enforcement officers have neither the ability nor the will to do the job with which they are tasked. It does not fill citizens or visitors with much confidence to learn that of the 155 534 SAPS members only 116 201 were able to handle firearms competently at even the minimum standard required. A South African shootist once told me that it is a demanding sport requiring many hours of training if one is to hit the target. She despaired of people who non-chalantly carry guns but do not go to a shooting range at least once a week. They had a greater chance of putting those they were trying to protect in danger than anything else, she said.
July 28 1914; the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia and so started World War One – the Great War – that was to last just over four years before it ended with Germany's formal surrender. The fighting was to end at the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month of 1918. without prejudice will carry a small feature on this War that changed the world so dramatically in the November issue of the magazine.
May 7 saw the South African electorate going to the polls for the fifth time in the country's democratic lifetime. It came as no surprise that the ANC was voted back into power and, if its majority was more than some would have liked, it was pretty well in line with forecasts. What did disappoint me is how little importance appears to have been attached to the Nkandla issue by ANC supporters.
The endless, very slow moving queues; people setting up bridge tables to pass the time; enterprising people rushing off to buy cool drinks and fast food to sell to those standing with amazing patience in the human traffic jam; the announcement of an extra day's voting because not everyone had been given the opportunity to make their cross and photographs of the elderly who walked for miles to ensure that at last, in their twilight years, they would be able to vote as a person equal to all others – these images and more are fresh in my memory.
This year, for the first time, we invited all universities in South Africa that have a law faculty to participate in our Top Student feature. Four of the seven universities that have not previously featured sent us details of their top students and we hope that in 2015 we will have a full house. We now feature top students from 13 South African universities. This year 35.5% of the top places went to men over last year's 30.1%. Comparing that by extracting only those universities that also appeared last year shows an increase of nearly 4.5%. It is also interesting to note that 38% of the top students from universities appearing for the first time were men.
February 14 dawned just an ordinary day but, less than a third of the way through it, a remarkable man had left us: friend, colleague, publisher, columnist, watchdog; we are all of us the poorer without him; the landscape is a little less colourful and the joie de vivre that much less joyful. David took delight in throwing down challenges; this tribute I view as a challenge to enable readers who did not have the privilege of meeting him, to know a little of David, the man behind the words.