South African human rights lawyer brings work to OHIO this fall


South African human rights defender Mohamed “Shafie” Ameermia arrives in Athens on September 1, bringing with him a lifetime of expertise and experience to share with students at Ohio University in as visiting professor Robert and Rene Glidden.

Ameermia is a legal consultant and the current Commissioner for Social Cohesion and Nation Building in the Republic of South Africa, as well as a former Commissioner at the South African Human Rights Commission.

“I look forward to engaging with the academic community about my experience working on issues directly related to human dignity, well-being and equality,” Ameermia said. “I am truly excited and grateful to have the opportunity to share my human rights journey and experiences with the Ohio University community.”

While in Athens this fall, Ameermia will speak with students from various courses in political science, philosophy, religious studies, geography, international studies and sociology. His discussions with students will include advice on career opportunities in international and transnational organizations.

“Commissioner Ameermia brings a wealth of experience on human rights, governance and South Africa to Ohio University. We are delighted that he works closely with our students and helps us to preparing them for multiple career paths, including opportunities in international organizations and We all look forward to learning from the Commissioner during his time here,” said Nukhet Sandal, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor graduate in political science.

Ameermia’s visit is organized by the Department of Political Science at the College of Arts and Sciences, but her visit is the result of a truly interdisciplinary effort, involving additional support from the Center for Law, Justice and Culture, the Center for International Studies, the Institute of Applied and Professional Ethics, Philosophy, Sociology, and Anthropology, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Honors Tutorial College.

“I am delighted that the Ohio University community has the opportunity to have an in-depth interaction with the former South African Commissioner for Human Rights, Mohamed Ameermia. He has a long and distinguished experience in the defense of human rights and human dignity, both in the Republic of South Africa and internationally.The Glidden Chair will provide him with a valuable opportunity to share his experiences with students and the academic community. in a broad sense,” said James Petrik, professor and holder of the chair of philosophy.

“I am grateful for the support of the Glidden Professorship Program and that of many other departments and units that made Ameermia’s visit possible,” added Petrik.

Ameermia will also give several public lectures and workshops and spend time working on a memoir detailing her life advocating for vulnerable and disenfranchised people.

“I look forward to using this opportunity to pursue legacy projects, in hopes of leaving the world in a better place. I am blessed, privileged and extremely honored to be a part of this program,” Ameermia said of his work this fall in OHIO.

Discussions are open to the public

At its first public lecture on September 13, Ameermia will discuss “The South African Human Rights Commission: Litigation and Legislation for Upholding Human Rights and Equality Under the Law”, at 19 hours at Bentley Hall 140.

His speech focuses on the 163 billion South African Rand prize he won for 250,000 indigent farm workers, 80% of whom were women, many of them single mothers, who had been exploited by a micro-credit industry unregulated. Lenders had taken advantage of the fact that there was no judicial oversight of the practice of microcredit and wage garnishment in connection with allegedly delinquent loans.

This conference is co-sponsored by the Center for Law, Justice and Culture.

In its second public lecture, which will begin at 4 p.m. on November 10, Ameermia will discuss “The Case of Caster Semenya”. This conference is hosted by the Institute of Applied and Professional Ethics.

Commissioner Mohamed Ameermia, portrait
Commissioner Mohamed Ameermia

About Mohamed “Shafie” Ameermia

Ameermia has a long and distinguished history of advocating for the poor and oppressed in the Republic of South Africa (RSA) and internationally. Most notably, his efforts in this regard have included serving on the South African Human Rights Commission from 2014 to 2021. This commission is a constitutionally mandated national body tasked with upholding the human rights of all RSA citizens.

Born in 1961, Ameermia grew up in the rural South African town of Bronkhorstspruit. As a member of the non-white majority, he experienced firsthand the injustices inflicted by the apartheid regime on people of color. He was, for example, not allowed to attend the local government-funded school, and his parents had to dip into their limited resources to send him to a lower boarding school several miles from his home. He also saw his parents forcibly deprived by the government of their livelihood – a humble but successful country store – and forced to start over in another location. Ameermia was lucky in one respect, however: her parents emphasized to their children the crucial role that education plays in social change, and they sacrificed themselves to ensure their children were educated. It was through the diligence and sacrifice of her parents that Ameermia was able to obtain an LLB (undergraduate degree in law) degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 1989.

Putting his education to work, Ameermia embarked on a professional career dedicated to challenging the injustices he had witnessed as a child that continued to oppress people of color in the Republic of South Africa. His early efforts were directed towards the struggle to end apartheid, including providing legal representation to many anti-apartheid activists who had been illegally detained in Gauteng Province. He also successfully challenged the forced removal of black citizens from Bronkhorstspruit to a location over 100 miles away. Due to his significant contributions to the anti-apartheid movement, when the first democratic elections were held in 1994, the newly reestablished African National Congress appealed to Ameermia to stand for local elections in Bronkhorstpruit. Although his particular campaign was not successful, Ameermia continued his work in the African National Congress and helped the party win a majority of seats in the Gauteng provincial government.

In 1999, Ameermia was appointed Municipal Clerk and Legal Adviser of Makhado Municipality in Limpopo Province. There, Ameermia worked to improve equal access to education by making the municipal library a source of awareness for children living in nearby villages. In addition, he facilitated the return of two large plots of land seized under apartheid to residents of the historically dispossessed communities of Getrudesburg and Kraanspoort. It was also during his tenure as City Clerk that Ameermia obtained his LLM (Postgraduate Diploma in Law) degree from the University of Pretoria. Subsequently, in 2003, he joined the provincial government of Limpopo as a legal adviser at senior management level, where he focused on the fight against fraud. His accomplishments included recovering R33 million for the provincial government, funds which were then used to build five secondary schools to serve the poor in Limpopo province.

In 2006, Ameermia was promoted to Chief Legal Services Director of the Limpopo Human Settlements Department. Over the next five years in this position, he oversaw a program that provided 65,000 low-cost housing units to around 450,000 of Limpopo’s poorest residents. And in 2011 he added another to his already impressive list of achievements when he facilitated the construction of municipal libraries across Limpopo.

In 2014, Ameermia was able to pursue his vocation of promoting human well-being and dignity on an even wider stage, when he was appointed to the South African Human Rights Commission from 2014 to 2021, including one year as interim president. While serving on the Commission, Ameermia was responsible for three national initiatives: the right to housing, the right to water and sanitation, and business and human rights.

About Glidden Chairs

The Robert and Rene’ Glidden Visiting Professor Program supports short-term academic appointments for distinguished visitors to Ohio University. The purpose of the chair is to expose Ohio University students and faculty to exceptional people and to make those people aware of the strengths and resources of Ohio University. Glidden professors are expected to be distinguished individuals who have achieved wide recognition based on their artistic, technical, historical, literary or scientific achievements. Learn more about the program.


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