Human Rights Watch has expressed sadness over the reports of the sudden death of its Southern Africa director and outspoken human rights activist Dewa Mavhinga. The cause of death was unclear yesterday morning, but some publications reported that Mavhinga had succumbed to Covid-19 in South Africa.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch said Mavhinga, a Zimbabwean national, led effective campaigns for respect of human rights across borders.
“Dewa was a deeply empathetic and highly effective human rights activist whose work made many people’s lives better, whether it was pushing the Zimbabwe government to respect the right to protest in the face of economic hardship or ensuring that victims of human rights abuses across southern Africa have access to justice,” said Roth.
He said Mavhinga, who joined Human Rights Watch as senior Zimbabwe researcher in 2012, spent years documenting human rights violations in his native country during the turbulent and violent final years of the Robert Mugabe government.
He had also been an extraordinary support to human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, where civil society is often under relentless attack,” said Roth.
As southern Africa director, Roth said Mavhinga oversaw and supported a broad range of work in the region aimed at ensuring human rights for all including exposing and ending political repression, forced evictions of indigenous people, violence and discrimination against women, LGBT people, and foreigners and demanding access to clean water and fair distribution of vaccines and Covid-19 relief packages.
News of Mavhinga’s demise sent shockwaves among civil rights, journalists and opposition activists in southern Africa and beyond, with many using social media to send condolences.
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