Beatrice Mtetwa to receive Inamori Ethics Prize Sept. 7 for human rights efforts

Case Western Reserve University’s Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence will award its 2011 Inamori Ethics Prize on Wednesday, Sept. 7, to human rights attorney Beatrice Mtetwa. Mtetwa will be recognized for her efforts to fight injustice in her home country of Zimbabwe.

The Inamori celebration begins with an academic symposium at 12:30 p.m. in the Inamori Center for Ethics and Excellence, located on the ground level of Crawford Hall. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Tickets are not required for the symposium.

Then, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Severance Hall (tickets required), Mtetwa will be honored with the Inamori medal and monetary award for her courage in fighting the injustice endured by everyday citizens and using her legal skills to free local and foreign journalists silenced with imprisonment or expelled from Zimbabwe. During the ceremony there will be musical performances and a video about Mtetwa’s work, and she will speak about her experiences.

Among those rescued reporters is Andrew Meldrum, now the deputy managing editor of the GlobalPost and one of the symposium’s panelists.

“The government tried to deport me. Beatrice convinced me to challenge that on the grounds that 1 million other people in Zimbabwe had valid resident permits like mine, and if I allowed the government to deport me by the stroke of a cabinet minister’s pen, it would weaken the rights of many others,” Meldrum said. “The judge ruled in my favor.”

These kinds of victories have come at a price for Mtetwa, who has endured death threats and physical assaults. But her stoicism has served as a shining example of ethical leadership.

Meldrum described Mtetwa as fearless and determined. “When she goes to a police station, officers take notice and listen to her. She is persuasive and authoritative in court and wins more cases than most, even though she is going against the [Robert] Mugabe government,” he said.

“She has defended many other journalists, both Zimbabwean and foreign, with the same zeal,” he continued. “Her work has led the way in the battle for press freedom, democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe.”

Mtetwa is the fourth recipient of the Inamori Ethics Prize. Others recipients were Stan Brock, founder of Remote Area Medical (2010); Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first woman president (2009); and Frances Collins, geneticist and leader of the Human Genome Project (2008). The prize was established with a generous gift from Kazuo Inamori, founder of Kyocera Corp. and Japanese telecommunications giant KDDI.

Both the symposium and award ceremony are free and open to the public. Tickets are required for the ceremony at Severance Hall. Call the Severance Hall box office at 216.231.1111 for reservations, or get your tickets online.

Symposium panelists:

Peter Godwin, author of best-selling memoirs about his work in Zimbabwe, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun and The Fear. Like Mtetwa, Godwin practiced law in Zimbabwe and later became a foreign correspondent, reporting on more than 60 countries. He has worked and contributed to news stories in such media as the London Sunday Times, BBC, Vanity Fair, National Geographic and The New York Times.

Tom McDonald, an equity partner at Baker & Hostetler LLP and former U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe from 1997-2001. During that time, he guided U.S. foreign policy during the critical juncture when the country faced a war in the Congo, human rights violations, threats of terrorism and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Andrew Meldrum, deputy managing editor and regional editor for Africa at the GlobalPost. He has covered Zimbabwe since 1980—first for the Guardian and The Economist and later as bureau chief for Agence France-Presse. He benefited from Beatrice Mtetwa’s legal skills after his arrest in 2002 for “publishing a falsehood.” Later he was illegally expelled from the country. His memoir, Where We Have Hope, recounts his 23 years in Zimbabwe.

Rhonda Y. Williams, associate professor of history at Case Western Reserve University, director of the Social Justice Institute and director of a postdoctoral fellowship in African American studies. She has written The Politics of Public Housing: Black Women’s Struggles Against Urban Inequality and co-edits the book series Justice, Power and Politics with the University of North Carolina Press.