Mozambican human rights activist and lawyer Maria Alice Mabota passed away on 12 October 2023, aged 74.
Born in 1949, in Maputo, Mabota did her primary education in Matutuine, 100km from the then capital Lourenço Marques (Maputo).
Around 1968, Mabota continued her education by frequenting night classes at the then Liceu António Enes (now Francisco Manyanga Secondary School) and subsequently at Liceu Salazar (now Josina Machel Secondary School, in Maputo).
After independence, Mabota read law at Maputo’s largest public Eduardo Mondlane University.
Eventually she taught Portuguese at her alma mater Francisco Manyanga Secondary School. After which, she worked at the defunct Administration of State Real Estate (APIE) and Institute for Legal Assistance and Representation (IPAJ).
In 1993, Mabota took part in a human rights conference in Viena, where she stayed for 45 days. The conference motivated her to commit to human rights in Mozambique. Upon her return in 1994, together with other activists and intellectuals, Mabota founded Mozambique’s Human Rights League (LDH), which she chaired until 2015, when a commission was set up to steer the destinies of the organisation amidst charges of mismanagement and abuse of power.
At the time, the League was beset by financial difficulties and the members decided that she needed to stand aside and let other people run it, but it never replicated its heydays. In practice, Mabota continued to work for the League until her death, which might presage the death of the League since some institutions are linked to the personal character and emotional connection of the founder.
During her tenure at the helm of the LDH, Mabota decried the status of human rights in the country, and her fierce and critical voice was a constant thorn in the side of the ruling Frelimo party which earned her death threats and insults, especially because she organised various anti-corruption and pro-peace demonstrations in the capital Maputo.
In 2010, Mabota received the International Woman of Courage prize, sponsored by the United States government.
In 2014, she briefly flirted with a run on the presidency. She eventually ran for president in 2019 but had her candidacy thrown-out owing to a lack of some documents.
In 2022, Mabota made headlines when she defended Khessaujee Pulchand, one of the 19 defendants accused of taking part in the $2.2 billion “hidden debts” scandal, who was eventually acquitted in court.
Despite her failings as a manager, it has to be acknowledged that she confronted the ruling party’s cronies and denounced various political abuses and misconducts.
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