Law is part of the Botha family’s DNA. Not only has mother and daughter Anya-Larissa and Vanya both graduated this week with their LLM degrees from Stellenbosch University (SU), but one of their ancestors – dating back 200 years – was also involved in the legal field.
Vanya (55) is a magistrate in Cape Town. Although she always wanted to do her LLM, life “just happened”. There never seemed to be a right time until her eldest daughter, Anya-Larissa (25), enrolled for her LLM and explained that it was possible to work while doing the course.
Although working students usually take two or three years to complete the degree, Vanya opted to complete it with her daughter within one year. “It was hectic, and at times I regretted my decision, but I was fortunate to have the support of my loving family, and I was able to see it through.” She adds that her husband took over the cooking duties during the year to get them all through their studies.
Anya-Larissa initially completed a BA degree in drama and theatre studies, but the family’s love for law proved stronger and she decided to change direction to an LLM, with a focus on children’s rights. “I always had a keen interest in the legal field as I grew up in a legal household with my mom being a magistrate for as long as I can remember.”
During her studies Anya-Larissa had the opportunity to study in Utrecht, Netherlands for six months. What made this opportunity significant is that she was able to study at the same university as her great-great-great-great grandfather, who obtained his LLM there in 1819.
Having shared a few LLB subjects with her younger sister, Doné, when she was in her second year of a Bachelor of Accounting and Law (BAccLLB), Anya-Larissa knew how rewarding it could be to study with a family member.
“I was super excited when my mom decided to do her LLM with me. We have a very close bond. We always tell people that we are not just mom and daughter, we are best friends.” The duo would discuss their class work during their evening walks and would summarise their case law and journal articles together.
Vanya says Anya-Larissa was of invaluable support when it came to adapting to the technical aspects of studying again. “For the first time in my life I had to write an online exam – and type my exam.”
Mom and daughter not only shared notes and classes, but one of Vanya’s previous lecturers, Prof Sonia Human, took their classes. “It was wonderful to sit in the Ou Hoofgebou (Old Main Building), where I had been a starry-eyed young student more than 30 years ago, but this time with my daughter.”
The pair are understandably proud of each other’s achievements. Anya-Larissa, who obtained her LLM degree cum laude, says her mother always supported her and her sister’s dreams. Doné obtained her BAccLLB (cum laude) last year. “It means a lot to me to have graduated with my mom. It has always been her dream to complete her LLM and it feels amazing to know that I could have played a part in helping her realise her dream for a change.”
Anya-Larissa started her PhD in law this year, also at SU.
Mum and daughter both add that credit should also go to father and husband Marius, who ably managed the household while they were studying. “My husband did the cooking for a year, and I must confess that he is a far better cook than me,” says Vanya.
“Our family was extremely excited about our graduation on 31 March and they are very proud of us. They are the only people who know the hours and hard work that went into our degrees, and therefore could not wait to celebrate with us.”
Photographer: Stefan Els