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CER appoints its first Deputy Director: Meet Wandisa Phama

11 March 2019 at 12:18 pm

CER Deputy Director Wandisa Phama and CER Executive Director Melissa Fourie
CER Deputy Director Wandisa Phama and CER Executive Director Melissa Fourie

The Centre for Environmental Rights is honoured to announce the appointment of its first Deputy Director. Wandisa Phama is a public interest lawyer and activist, and a former acting co-deputy director and head of the Business and Human Rights Programme at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits. Wandisa started at CER as its new Deputy Director on 1 March 2019 and will work alongside CER Executive Director Melissa Fourie.

Wandisa hails from the rural town of Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape. “It is being born in Sterkspruit that sparked and grounded my interest in human rights and social justice. Since I was a child and although I did not have the language for it, I knew that there was something wrong with the poverty that is pervasive in towns such as Sterkspruit, and the complete exclusion from economic opportunities of people living in deplorable conditions such as the informal settlements of Cape Town,” says Wandisa.

“Having lived in various communities within South Africa, from a young age I was exposed to the country’s contradictions when it comes to access to those basic services that are necessary for human life to thrive. I am passionate about social justice not only because I want to live in a South Africa that can redress the legacy of apartheid, but because the deplorable environmental conditions in which mining affected communities, particularly in rural areas, and informal settlement communities live are one of those instances where the legacy of our past continues in ways that bother me.”

Wandisa completed her LLB at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2011. During her law studies, she was also a Research Assistant at UCT’s Private Law Department. After graduating, she was a Research Assistant: Law, Race and Gender Unit (now Centre for Law and Society) at UCT, and thereafter completed a legal internship at the South African Human Rights Commission. In 2012, she joined the UCT Refugee Rights Project a, and thereafter a researcher at Equal Education Law Centre. Wandisa held both the National Research Fund Scholarship and the Bheki Mlangeni Memorial Scholarship in 2012.

In 2014, Wandisa started her articles at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits, and was admitted as attorney in 2016. After practising as an attorney at CALS, she was appointed the head of the Business & Human Rights Programme in 2017. While at CALS, she taught a number of courses at the Wits Law School, including postgraduate courses in Law and Sustainability, and an undergraduate course in Environmental Law. Wandisa also completed her LLM at UCT in 2017.

In 2018, Wandisa was recognised as one of Mail and Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans.

CER Board and staff are thrilled to have Wandisa join our team, and are excited to work with and learn from her over the coming years.