Third Makwanyane Institute Builds Skills and Community Among Leading African Death Penalty Lawyers

This year, the Center held its third Makwanyane Institute, our flagship intensive training for capital defense lawyers, in South Africa, home of the seminal Makwanyane judgment that abolished South Africa’s death penalty and gave the Institute its name.

Makwanyane Institute

Group shot of the 2019 Makwanyane Institute.

Welcomed by Justice Albie Sachs, who sat on the South African Constitutional Court when Makwanyane was decided, sixteen competitively selected lawyers from Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda embarked on 10 days of intensive, individualized training led by top capital defenders and mental health experts from around the world. Through interactive, experiential learning sessions, each Makwanyane Fellow sharpened their skills through mock client interviews, mitigation investigations, narrative storytelling exercises, and analysis of hypothetical case files. They also learned how to identify signs and symptoms of intellectual disability and mental illness, and the importance of working with experts. The event also offered opportunities to share strategies to overcome practical challenges in death penalty defense work throughout the African continent.

Nestled in the beautiful hills of South African wine country, the Bertha Foundation’s Retreat Center offered our Fellows a space of quiet focus and a sense of community as they re-committed themselves to representing the most vulnerable and maligned clients in society.

After the training, this year’s Fellows, experts, and trainers new and old joined the growing network of Makwanyane Defenders who, with the support of their Makwanyane mentors and colleagues, are revolutionizing legal practices in their home countries.