Juggling her responsibilities

Tselane Mokuena, Consul-General of the Republic of South Africa in Canada, explains why there's no time like the present to start studying
South African Consul-General, Tselane Mokuena
"It is never too late to start", says postgraduate law student Tselane Mokuena
My current portfolio requires that I have some knowledge of trade and investment issues and when I discovered this course at the University of London I realised that it could not have come at a better time in my career

Currently studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Laws, Tselane Mokuena is the Consul-General of the Republic of South Africa, based in Toronto. Prior to her posting to Canada, from October 2008 to February 2010 she served as Consul-General in Munich, where her focus was on the motor industry and bilateral relations between South Africa and the states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.

Before her appointment as Consul-General, Tselane was the Chief Director for Southern Africa in South Africa’s Department of Foreign Affairs. During this time she oversaw bilateral relations between South Africa and countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). She also advised the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Presidency on issues of bilateral interest, and worked closely with the Presidency and the Department of Trade and Industry on the Presidential Economic Commissions between South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Mozambique.

The Consul-General played a key role in South Africa’s assistance for the holding of the 2007 elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She was further responsible for the South African government’s program for Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development in the DRC and Angola, and was a member of the African Renaissance Board and the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Bid Committee. She also served on the board of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund of Canada.

Tselane MokuenaFirstly, how have you found the time to commence studying with the Postgraduate Laws Programme?
First and foremost, I must indicate that it is never too late to start and life is always busy. There is never the right time. It has always been my dream to study with a University in the UK and I could not have chosen a better University. My career and position as Consul-General keeps me very busy on a daily basis with a variety of tasks like meetings, consular tasks, business seminars which we conduct on South Africa as a viable business destination, events etc. But I am also surrounded by very wise people who advise me on how to find time and use it effectively in order to achieve my goals.

I remember one friend, who also happens to be a professor at one of the Universities in Toronto, who advised me at the beginning of my studies to try and find ‘one hour each day’. Although I try to do that, I must confess that some days it is impossible due to events that require my attendance sometimes into the evening. When you think of it, it is easy to contemplate one hour than five hours of studies and as such, it relieves some of the anxiety one might feel when one has to open the books. I suppose, in short, all that the professor was trying to tell me was do what you can.

"I feel that through this course, I will be in a better position to advise my country on some of the issues that may otherwise not be tackled fully due to lack of knowledge or sound advice."

You are studying International Economic Law and International Investment Law. What areas of the courses do you find specifically helpful and how will they assist you in your career?
As Consul-General, I am responsible for promotion of trade and investment between South Africa and my country of accreditation, Canada. Professionally, and over time as my biography will show, I have been dealing mostly with political relations between South Africa and various Southern African countries. My current portfolio requires that I have some knowledge of trade and investment issues and when I discovered this course at the University of London, I realised that it could not have come at a better time in my career.

Tselane MokuenaI have found the course useful as it addresses issues that have been under discussion in my country for a while although they have now been resolved. I feel that through this course, I will be in a better position to advise my country on some of the issues that may otherwise not be tackled fully due to lack of knowledge or sound advice – and, of course, bring to the fore implications of certain actions and decisions which might impact on investment. Among which is the issue of nationalisation which was not government policy but needed to be debated to ensure that everyone was on board with the position the government had taken.

The readings have also clarified for me issues like expropriation and the circumstances under which this can be contemplated by a country. The principles of adequate, prompt and effective compensation have accordingly long been embraced by my government in the Constitution and as such, gives me great assurance as a student of this course that we are on the right track as a country.

With such a responsible job, how do you prioritise your time?
I am a determined person and know that I have to work hard to succeed. I therefore make time for my studies as I do for family and friends. In my profession, one can come across many distractions which might not necessarily help enhance relations between my country and that to which I am accredited. I therefore sift through carefully where I should get involved and always have at the back of my mind: would this be in the best interest of my country or am I just attending for the sake of it?

As indicated earlier, I ensure that I set aside at least one hour a day to study. When I feel tired from my long hours of work, which include evenings, I simply put the books aside and regroup. I do not like stress in my life and try by all means to do things in such a way that do not invite it. I must admit though that it is not an easy task to study while you work. You have to juggle responsibilities and always keep checking what is important while you also guard against neglecting family.

"Almost 20 years into our freedom as a country, we have not yet achieved the desired numbers we would like to see of students who get opportunities of this nature with prestigious institutions like the University of London."

Do you make use of the Online Library?
I have been through the Online Library to look for some cases but not very often. The one case I mostly really wanted I could not find or perhaps I did not search properly. However, I find that most of what I need is on my modules and do not quite have many opportunities or time to go through the Online Library. I am also still going through my modules and trying to absorb those first before I consult the Online Library extensively. Now that I am preparing for my exams, I may visit it more regularly if need be now that you mention it.

The University of London now offers two Scholarships for the Master of Laws for South African students through Canon Collins Trust. What are your views on this?
The scholarships will benefit deserving students from disadvantaged backgrounds to study Law with a prestigious University where some of our heroes like Mandela have also enjoyed the opportunity of tuition. Almost 20 years into our freedom as a country, we have not yet achieved the desired numbers we would like to see of students who get opportunities of this nature with prestigious institutions like the University of London.

Finally, you have achieved so much already in your career. Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I see myself representing my country once again as Ambassador in any country my government will deem fit for my skills at the time. I also simultaneously see myself engaging in mentoring relationships to young men and women from disadvantaged communities helping them to gain scholarships to study abroad. I believe that the more we expose more of our young people to see and interact with the world, the more they will appreciate our country to begin to see how lucky we are to be in such a beautiful country with flora and fauna, free from wars and where racial differences have somewhat been overcome through negotiation and dialogue.

  • This article first appeared in issue 9 (October 2013) of the LLM Newsletter [interview: Linda Cox].
  • Find out more about studying for an LLM by distance learning.
  • Watch Dr James Busuttil, Director of the Postgraduate Laws programme, give an overview of the LLM: