The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, selected Zimbabwean human rights champion Roselyn Hanzi to receive the 2021 Vera Chirwa Award.  Ms Hanzi is the Executive Director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), a non-governmental organisation that has for long been working for human rights protection in Zimbabwe. She has held this position since 2016, making her one of the most seasoned leaders in Zimbabwean civil society. The Award was in recognition of her work in championing human rights protection in Zimbabwe and the ZHLR where she leads the organisation’s work in human rights litigation, education and awareness despite unfavourable conditions.

The Vera Chirwa Award was instituted by the Centre in 2006. The Award was put in place for an alumnus or alumna of the LLM/MPhil Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA) who best embodies the spirit of the programme in their subsequent career by making a difference to the protection of human rights or the strengthening of democratisation in Africa.

The Award was named after Vera Mlangazua Chirwa, Malawi’s first female lawyer and foremost human rights and civil rights activist. She fought for multiparty democratic rule, championed human rights protection and stood firmly against authoritarianism in Malawi. As a result, she and her husband, Orton Chirwa, were arrested on 24 December 1981 and sentenced to death by the authoritarian regime of Hastings Kamuzu Banda. While in detention, they were tortured and denied proper medical attention which led to the death of her husband on 20 October 1992. She spent 12 years in prison and was released on 23 January 1993. After her release, she continued her human rights activism. She later became a member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2000 as its Special Rapporteur on Prison Conditions in Africa.

Since the Annual Award was instituted in 2006, it has been awarded 14 times to the following 20 alumni of the HRDA programme:

  • 2021: Ms Roselyn Hanzi (Zimbabwe)
  • 2020: Dr Solomon Ayele Dersso and Professor Benyam Mezmur (Ethiopia)
  • 2019: Justice Lydia Mugambe-Ssali (Uganda)
  • 2018: Mr Joojo Cobbinah (Ghana)
  • 2017: Ms Musu Bakoto Sawo (The Gambia) and Ms Melanie Smuts (South Africa)
  • 2016: Dr Patrick Eba (Cameroon) and Dr Adrian Jjuko (Uganda)
  • 2015: Prof Christopher Mbazira (Uganda) and Ms Salima Namusobya (Uganda)
  • 2014: Ms Leda Hasila Limann (Ghana)
  • 2012: Ms Monica Mbaru (Kenya) and Dr Lillian Chenwi (Cameroon)
  • 2011: Mr Thulani Maseko (Swaziland)
  • 2010: Mr Yoseph Mulugeta (Ethiopia)
  • 2009: Mr Gabriel Shumba (Zimbabwe)
  • 2008: Mr Julius Osega (Uganda) (posthumously)
  • 2007: Ms Nana Oye-Lithur (Ghana)
  • 2006: Mr Melcron Nicol-Wilson (Sierra Leone)

The Centre congratulates Ms Hanzi on her well-deserved award and wishes her all the best in her future endeavours.

For more information please contact:

Tomiwa Ilori
HRDA Alumni Coordinator

Researcher: Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 4397
Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743

Prof Frans Viljoen
Director: Centre for Human Rights

Professor of International Human Rights Law

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 3228
Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743


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