Leanne Govindsamy is the head of the corporate accountability and transparency programme at the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER). She is committed to social justice and the realisation of the values and rights espoused in the Constitution. She speaks about being “part of a collective movement of lawyers and activists, all working towards realising a more just and equal society, in which all people are able to enjoy [the] rights and freedoms afforded by the Constitution and in which the environment is protected and preserved for present and future generations.” Govindsamy graduated from University of the Witwatesrand with an LLB degree, and she was chosen to clerk at the Constitutional Court for Justice Tholakele Madala in 2007. She was later awarded the Ismail Mohamed Fellowship to complete her masters in International Human Rights law at the University of Notre Dame, graduating summa cum laude in 2009. She completed an internship at a legal nongovernmental organisation in India and returned to South Africa to complete her articles. She will graduate with a master’s in anthropology, through coursework and dissertation, in December 2019.
Govindsamy moved from private practice to use her experience to advance the fight against corruption and maladministration. She joined Corruption Watch in 2014 as head of legal and investigations. “I have always been concerned with issues of equality and social justice,” she says, “and wanted to make a meaningful impact in society through my work. I have tried to work towards this goal, both in private practice and within civil society.” As details of the nature and extent of state capture came to light, this work has proved vital.
Given the changing global and local priorities around the urgency of environmental protection and climate change, Govindsamy has sought to use her corporate accountability experience at the CER. She’s leading a growing campaign against the use of strategic lawsuits against public participation – or SLAPP – often used against environmental defenders and lawyers. As awareness grows about the global threat of climate change brought on by the use of fossil fuels, work by Govindsamy and the CER is of critical importance. — Cayleigh Bright