The work of Human Rights Lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa is no ordinary task. Dealing with a dictatorship that uses the law against its own citizens she has found the courage to use the law in defense of human rights. This is no ordinary task in a patriarchal society where the leader is the law. ZANU- PF, the ruling party in Zimbabwe under the leadership of Robert Mugabe often use violence and intimidation to silence dissent but fighting human rights violations has become second nature to lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa.
Beatrice Mtetwa was born in Swaziland in the rural community but was determined that this was not the life for her. She graduated with a Bachelor of Law degree (LLB) from the University of Botswana and Swaziland in 1981. She worked as a prosecutor in Swaziland and in Zimbabwe from 1981 to 1989. She went into private practice in Harare in February 1989. She came from a polygamous family. Mtetwa is the eldest daughter of a father who had six wives and more than 50 children. Beatrice Mtetwa has a daughter Tandy and son Mxolisa.
“The most incredible thing about Zimbabwe is that it looks like it is working. The government doesn’t go out there and do things without following the law. What they do is change the law to make it what they want it to be. So there’s all this veneer of respectability, of a system that works.” – Beatrice Mtetwa in Interview with PBS
Mtetwa is a game changer in Zimbabwean history and an inspiration to young women who can look at her and know that they too can challenge the status quo and deserve equal protection under the law. In 2005, she won the International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists. She also won Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2008. In 2009, the European Bar Human Rights Institute awarded her the Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize. Mtetwa also won the 2010 International Human Rights award of the American Bar Association. In 2011, she was awarded the Inamori Ethics Prize by Case Western Reserve University in the United States.
Mtetwa champions a variety of other social causes, including eradicating AIDS and poverty, protecting the rights of women and children, preserving the essential freedoms of peaceful assembly, association and speech, and helping poor farmers wrongfully evicted from their land by the government. Beatrice Mtetwa also sits on various commercial boards, including the Zimbabwe Independent and Standard newspapers, the Mail and Guardian Media Group, and Pioneer Africa Corporation (a diversified transport company operating in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana and Uganda).