HARARE – The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has conferred former South African president Nelson Mandela with a posthumous Human Rights Lawyer of the Year Award, as the organisation seeks to establish a scholarship programme with the icon’s Foundation.
The award which will be forwarded to his Foundation, was given on Friday evening at a ZLHR human rights dinner and lecture held in Harare.
ZLHR described Mandela as an inspiration for human rights lawyers throughout Zimbabwe and the wider African region.
The organisation said Mandela was a humble man who used his professional legal skills for the betterment of humanity.
“Our legal profession, our country, our continent, and the world at large have been inspired by the example of the dear departed Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
“We are not global powers. We do not bestow Nobel Peace Prizes and state accolades. But in our own small way, we take this opportunity to salute a fellow lawyer, to thank him for his life of public service, and to show that there are many who have taken heed of his example and action,” ZLHR said.
The organisation further said that it will seek to establish, together with Mandela’s Foundation representatives, an annual scholarship in Zimbabwe for children who excel in academic studies.
“We thank Madiba for his life’s work, and we will continue to play our role in fostering a culture of human rights and dignity for all in our society,” the organisation said. ZLHR said this year saw fresh attacks on human rights lawyers increasing, putting the solicitors in a precarious position.
“The assault against lawyers — including harassment, threats, unlawful arrest, unwarranted detention and time-consuming prosecutions — had a chilling effect on the lawful activities of other human rights lawyers and the human rights defenders they represent,” ZLHR said.
The organisation said the State proved that it is still not able to assure the public that it is willing to comply with its constitutional and international legal obligations to protect the rights of accused persons.
ZLHR said lawyers like David Tandiri, who successfully defended several people in remote parts of the country and Bulawayo’s Kossam Ncube, had played a crucial role in representing human rights defenders.
In a statement, the organisation said Ncube knocked at the door of police stations and the cells almost every month in search of mostly women human rights defenders who were routinely arrested for exercising their right to assembly and association as guaranteed in the Zimbabwe Constitution.
The organisation held highly the works of Passmore Nyakureba, Eric Matinenga and Beatrice Mtetwa in defending human rights defenders.