“People who do things under the cover of darkness are afraid of light. So, if you come at midnight I’ll be there with my headlights glaring…” says Zimbabwean human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, in the opening scene of a new documentary about her work which was launched last month.
Mtetwa sits on the board of thenot for profit human rights organisationZimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), a Hivos partner. ZLHR provides representation for individuals and organisations in human rights cases and works to increase the awareness of human rights among Zimbabweans.
She was present at the screening of the documentary at the headquarters of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington DC. The funding for the documentary film project came from the USIP, the Bertha BRIT DOC Foundation, the International Bar Association and the Guardian’s Scott Trust Foundation.
Mtetwa was arrested on March 17, 2013in Zimbabwe for demanding to see a search warrant during a police raid of a client’s premises. She spent a week behind bars and was released on bail on March 25.
But this was just one of many run-ins she has had with the Zimbabwean authorities. For over twenty years Mtetwa has defended journalists, politicians and other individuals in cases against the Zimbabwean government. She has been jailed, beaten and threatened, but this has not stopped her crusade for justice. “I just feel very strongly that we need to continue showing up the system for what it is,” she said during an interview in 2006. Today, seven years later, she remains as defiant and committed to her cause.
The new documentary, titled ‘Beatrice Mtetwa and the Rule of Law’, was produced by award-winning independent filmmaker Lorie Cornway, who travelled to Zimbabwe in 2012 to film interviews with Mtetwa, her defendants, colleagues and, government officials.
The overarching message from Mtetwa, as we go through her moving story of little triumphs and big victories in the face of overwhelming challenges, remains the same as the one echoed in that interview in 2006: the law must prevail over any form of repression or intimidation.
“I will keep trying, and I’m not going to stop….This has to be done. Somebody’s got to do it,” she says in the film.
The Hivos partnership with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights falls under its Rights and Citizenship programme.