Muchadehama: a pioneer for human rights

Prominent award-winning lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, 46, is a man on a mission. His calling is to stand up against tyranny and ensure a society that respects and upholds human rights.

Alec Muchadehama.
Alec Muchadehama.

Since launching his career in 1991, Muchadehama has handled high profile cases that involved the violation of human rights by state security agents, among them the police and army.

He says his desire to stand up for human rights was strengthened by the food riots of 1998, which were later followed by a crackdown by police and the army on civilians.

“I have a passion for cases relating to the violation of human rights, especially cases which involve people who are susceptible to abuse. My passion for human rights cases intensified following the 1998 food riots when police roped in the army to crack down on civilians,” he said.

Muchadehama said he was touched by the victimisation of innocent civilians during that period which led to police cells as well as Chikurubi prison being flooded by innocent individuals.

Household name

“To me, that was very fundamental. There were many victimisations during that period and I stood up for the rights of most of the accused persons who were later on cleared,” said Muchadehama.

After that, he became a household name as far as defending human rights in Zimbabwe is concerned.

He has represented high profile people such as National Constitutional Assembly chairperson, Lovemore Madhuku, when he was arrested during his campaign for a “No Vote” during the 2000 referendum.

“I have also represented a lot of MDC activists who were arrested on trumped up charges during the 2002 (presidential) elections. In 2003, I represented Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai when he was arrested in Kadoma,” he said.

Muchadehama has also represented big wigs within the MDC-T who include Ian Makone and his wife Theresa Makone, Nelson Chamisa, Elton Mangoma and countless others.

Awarded for his work

In 2009, Muchadehama was part of the defence team for Zimbabwe Peace Project Director, Jestina Mukoko, and a host of MDC-T activists who were abducted by state security agents on trumped up charges of conniving against the government.

The human rights defender has received several awards in recognition of his sterling work.

In 2003, he received the Human Rights Lawyer of the Year award for bravery and consistency in defending human rights. In 2010, he was nominated for the Human Rights Tulip award in the Netherlands. During that same year, Muchadehama won the Civil Society Organisations Human Rights Award for unyielding commitment, bravery and consistency in defending human rights.

He won the Dutch Foundation Lawyers for Lawyers Award last year.

Muchadehama was the first male recipient of the Women’s Human Rights Defender award, courtesy of the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association, in 2011.

Despite the ground he has covered in his work, Muchadehama remains concerned by the level of human rights violations in Zimbabwe.

“There are a lot of violations in Zimbabwe which are occurring at unprecedented levels. The human rights violations are widespread and systematic and the perpetrators have been descending on innocent civilians,” said Muchadehama.

A culture of respect

He said the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission should be empowered to effectively carry out its mandate so that a culture of respect for the rights of civilians prevails in the country.

“The setting up of the commission should not be a window dressing measure. There are reputable people there and they should be given the necessary leeway to operate. They should not be limited in their operations,” he said.

He said there was need to ensure the independence of the judiciary and reform of the police and the Central Intelligence Organisation in order to avoid political interference and foster a culture of respect for human rights.

Muchadehama, who is also the Chairperson of The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe, expressed concern over adverse laws that curtail media freedom in the country.

“We still have adverse laws like AIPPA and POSA, among others, which tend to curtail media freedom. At the same time, you have the Presidential insult laws that also curtail the freedom of the media,” said Muchadehama.

He expressed concern over state regulation of the media as well as the reluctance by government to open up space for new players in the industry.

“We believe that voluntary regulation is the way to go because we are convinced journalists are professionals and must regulate themselves,” said Muchadehama.

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