Bulawayo, June 29, 2015 – The death of Joseph James, a prominent Zimbabwean human rights lawyer has unleashed an outpouring of sorrow from legal practitioners who described him as a principled and fearless human rights lawyer.
James, a partner at James Moyo-Majwabu & Nyoni Legal Practitioners and the Chairperson of the Legal Resources Foundation’s board of trustees, who was affectionately known as “Jumbo” by his peers, succumbed to cancer on Sunday.
Lawyers both within and outside Zimbabwe eulogised James as a fearless and principled legal practitioner while others shared their anguish on social media networking sites such as Facebook.
“Throughout his tenure, he acquitted himself with the highest levels of fearlessness, professionalism and commitment to protecting the independence and integrity of the legal profession and speaking truth to power….Jumbo was a dearly loved, active and loyal senior member of ZLHR. His advice, support and learned counsel were always sought out and will be treasured for years to come. His loss will leave a marked void in the organisation and in our hearts,” said the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) of which James was a member.
James, the highly respected and experienced human rights lawyer served as the President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) between 2005 and 2008 during a tumultuous period for the legal profession and for the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
Throughout his tenure, ZLHR said, James acquitted himself with the highest levels of “fearlessness, professionalism and commitment to protecting the independence and integrity of the legal profession and speaking truth to power.”
Tinoziva Bere, a past President of the LSZ said he was saddened by the death of James.
“This is terrible news! This is the man who patiently natured my passion to serve the profession and my growth to be a leader…. he allowed me to serve and acknowledged my potential…. he had no pre-conceptions or biases…. I owe so much to him and most saddened by this. The LSZ is much much poorer with his demise. MHDSRIP!” said Bere.
James is credited with mentoring several junior lawyers some of whom on Monday paid tribute to him.
“Joseph James. Great man, great mind, major loss to the profession. He was an inspiration to young lawyers like myself. May his soul rest in peace,” said human rights lawyer Kennedy Masiye.
South Africa-based Advocate Tererai Mafukidze weighed in and said James was “a fair opponent. He treated senior and junior alike…with great respect. Sad news.”
UK based lawyer Alex Magaisa, who once served as adviser to former Prime Minister and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai said also heaped praise on James saying he was one of the legal profession’s “giants”.
Harare-based lawyer Precious Chakasikwa said “the profession is poorer without him” while Gweru based lawyer Hillary Garikayi bemoaned that the legal profession would be poorer without James.
“We have been robbed of a great lawyer of our time. We will forever cherish the jurisprudence you have left behind. Go well. Till we meet. Rest in peace,” said Garikayi.
In 2012, the LSZ honoured James with the Walter Kamba Rule of Law Award in recognition of his commitment to the legal profession and to justice for all Zimbabweans.