Gabriel Shumba wins rights award
Rights lawyer and Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) Executive Director, Gabriel Shumba will tomorrow, the 10th of December 2009, receive the Verwa Chirwa Prize offered every year by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria.
The Verwa Chirwa Human Rights Award is offered to alumni of the Master of Laws in Human Rights and Democratization in Africa ‘who best epitomizes the true African human rights lawyer’ and has ‘made an outstanding contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights in Africa’.
The accolade is also offered on the basis of the recipient’s ‘dynamism, originality and courageous pioneering spirit’ as well as ‘outstanding professional achievements’. Shumba becomes the 3rd recipient of the prize.
A human rights defender in his country, Shumba was brutally tortured and forced to flee his homeland, Zimbabwe in 2003. He subsequently founded ZEF in South Africa, an organisation that has been documenting and litigating rights abuses of those in exile, as well as generally championing the cause for a democratic Zimbabwe.
Commenting on the coming occasion, Shumba said that ‘it is a singular honour to receive the Vera Chirwa Human Rights Award on international human rights day tomorrow, especially as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay, will be gracing the event. I am humbled’.
Dr Vera Chirwa was jailed in Malawi alongside her husband Orton for treason for 12 years by the repressive and autocratic government of Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
On 9 June 1983, she escaped execution as a result of international pressure, and was only released from prison shortly after her husband’s death in custody.
Both the Chirwas had been staunch advocates of democracy in their country, and Dr Vera Chirwa has continued to carry the torch regionally and internationally.