Around the world, girls and women are rising up to guard human rights, democracy and equality. Today, the spotlight is on two African women who are risking everything to make a stand for justice and democracy on the continent. We are inspired by their bravery and resolve to defend citizens and human rights.
Beatrice Mtetwa (Zimbabwe)
Beatrice Mtetwa is a Swazi- Zimbabwean lawyer who has been internationally recognised for her defense of journalists and press freedom.
Mtetwa received her LLB from the University of Botswana and Swaziland in 1981 and spent the next two years working as a prosecuting attorney in Swaziland. In 1983, she moved to Zimbabwe, where she continued working as a prosecutor until 1989. That year, she went into private practice, and soon began specialising in human rights law. In one of her more notable cases, she successfully challenged a section of Zimbabwe’s Private Voluntary Organisations Act that allowed a government minister the authority to dissolve or replace the board members of non-governmental organisations. She also challenged the results of 37 districts in the 2000 parliamentary elections.
Mtetwa and Tawanda Nyambirai founded Mtetwa & Nyambirai Legal Practitioners in 2006 and it has established itself over the past decade as one of Zimbabwe’s leading law firms. Mtetwa & Nyambirai’s history is punctuated by landmark cases in multiple areas of the law. She represented many activists such as Jestina Mukoko, Hopewell Chin’ono,
She has been assaulted, arrested and detained in the course of her career. The State is trying to have Mtetwa struck off the professional register.
Justice Ivy Kamanga (Malawi)
Justice Kamanga is a constitutional court judge and legal powerhouse in Malawi. Malawi’s opposition, led by Lazarus Chakwera, swept to power, defeating President Peter Mutharika, who had been declared winner and sworn in for a second term after the first disputed elections. Justice Kamanga, along with her colleagues (Justices Healey Potani Redson Kapindu, Dingiswayo Madise and Michael Tembo, ruled in February this year that Mutharika’s victory had been rigged. Despite high-level bribery attempts and threats, they arrived in court under armed escort and wearing bulletproof vests — delivered their 500-page ruling, which upheld the constitution and defended citizens’ democratic rights. African presidential elections are marred with corruption and bribery. This ruling was a historic moment for democracy in Malawi and the continent. In October, British think-tank Chatham House awarded its annual prize to the five judges for their independence and bravery.
Justice Kamanga has always been heralded as a legal expert who stand in justice. During the helm of the Cashgate cases, she was the first judge to jail former Tourism Principal Secretary, the late Treza Senzani, for her involvement in plundering government resources.
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