Beatrice Mtetwa is the eldest daughter of fifty children, wand was raised on a farm without electricity or running water in Swaziland, one of the smallest countries on the African continent. After completing a law degree at the University of Botswana, she moved across the border to pursue her career.
She is renowned not only in Zimbabwe, but around the world, for her work in human rights, particularly in the defense of free and fair journalism as well as freedom of the press. Her ambitions have always superseded societal expectations.
“I knew I did not want to be carrying babies on my back and working in the fields. That wasn’t going to be for me and it wasn’t going to be for my sister either”, Mtetwa has stated.
It is this sense of determination that led her to win some high profile cases, including a court order preventing the legal deportation of Andrew Meldrum, a Guardian reporter who was being held on charges of “abuse of journalistic privilege”, or Barry Bearak, a New York Times reporter who was arrested on charges of simply practicing journalism. Metetwa was also instrumental in the defense of Jestina Mukoko, the executive director of the Zimbabawe Peace Project, who was imprisoned and tortured by the Zimbabwean government in 2008 after she was charged for running and unregistered organization, or so they stated.
Being a woman of the people has come with its share of threats and assaults, particularly under a regime that highly favored selective justice. She has been arrested, beaten and tortured, but her fight is relentless. “I will keep trying, and I’m not going to stop; this has to be done. Somebody’s got to do it.”, she said during a panel discussion following the screening of a feature documentary on her life and work Beatrice Mtetwa and the Rule of Law, at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
On November 13, 2014, she received the fourth annual Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, GA, an international award established in 2010 by the institution in recognition of the late Ivan Allen Jr. A Georgia Tech alumnus, who became a pivotal leader during America’s struggle for racial integration during the 1960s. Mtetwa is the first female and international figure to win the award.
“Beatrice has the kind of courage the mayor shared on issues of critical importance to the society she lives in, but also to the rest of the world,” said Joe Bankoff, chair of the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and a member of the nominating committee.
This is one of numerous award and recognitions that Mtetwa has received. In March 2014, she received the International Women of Courage Award, which recognizes extraordinary women from around the world who have exemplified exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights, women’s equality, and social progress, often at great personal risk.
Image: Namibian Sun