‘Giant of the profession’ – IBA mourns death of former president Sternford Moyo

Revered Zimbabwean lawyer – the first African IBA president – has died aged 68

Sternford Moyo, the immediate past president of the International Bar Association (IBA), has died after a short illness. He was 68. 

Moyo, who was president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe from 2002-2004, held many senior roles within the IBA and served as president from 2021 to 2022, becoming the first president of African lineage to assume the role. 

His successor as president, Almudena Arpón de Mendívil Aldama, said: “The immense contribution that Sternford made to the IBA is impossible to sum up, but the number of senior roles he held and their breadth provide an indication of the time, effort and commitment he gave to the IBA. Sternford was a man of great courage and integrity and will be sorely missed by those who knew him.”

Moyo was a past co-chair of the IBA’s Human Rights Institute, among many other roles, including chair of the IBA’s African Regional Forum. He sat on the IBA’s council and management board and held various IBA trustee appointments. 

He was the senior partner and chairman of Scanlen & Holderness in Zimbabwe, one of the country’s largest law firms, having been admitted as a lawyer in 1982.

He also served as president of the Southern African Development Community Lawyers Association (SADCLA), where he was recognised for his contributions to commercial, corporate and mining law.

His business appointments included local chairmanship roles at Stanbic Bank, Schweppes, Delta Beverages and directorships at Alpha Media Holdings and other businesses. He was a past chairman of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority. He was made a Freeman of the City of London in 2021 for his contributions to the rule of law. 

IBA executive director Mark Ellis said: "Sometimes in life, you meet people you know make the world a better and more just place. Sternford Moyo was one such person. His passing is a huge loss for the legal profession and me personally. I am devastated by his death."

Alison Hook, a former head of international at the Law Society of England and Wales (LSEW) and founder of the consultancy Hook Taganza, described Moyo as “a giant of the legal profession”, adding: “He was my legal hero.”

Many Zimbabwean lawyers recalled Moyo’s positive contribution to upholding the rule of law in online tributes. In a statement, the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) shared its “heavy sense of grief and loss” on Moyo’s “untimely passing” after a brief illness.

The LSZ said Moyo represented “a rare breed of legal practitioners and business leaders who have blazed a trail on the global stage”, adding: “The profession in Zimbabwe is all the poorer for his passing."

The SADCLA added that Moyo was “not just a legal luminary but a mentor, a guide and a beacon of hope for those seeking justice”.

Moyo is survived by his wife, Sarah Moyo and three children. Last month a memorial service was held in London for former LSEW strategic director Stephen Denyer, a long-term IBA colleague of Moyo, who died in January.

Moyo’s passing comes before the forthcoming IBA annual conference in Mexico City in September, where he was expected to play a prominent role as usual.

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