Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA)

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Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) seeks to accomplish their mission through legal and policy research, advocacy, impact litigation, conflict resolution and civic education. Their work spans over helping poor communities to assert and claim their environmental, economic, social and cultural rights within the natural resources and environmental sector.

Background

Formed in 2000 and legally constituted as a Trust in November 2001 under Notarial Deed of Trust MA1669/2001, the ZELA is a premier public interest environmental law group based in Zimbabwe. As a public interest non-governmental organization, they seek to promote environmental justice, sustainable and equitable use of natural resources, democracy and good governance in the natural resources and environment sector.[1]

Programmes

Mining and Extractuves Industry

The programme includes a set of objectives and a selected number of signature activities based on evidence based research, advocacy, community monitoring, litigation and rights training. The following are the key objectives of their work on extractives and mining:

  • Improving transparency and accountability in the mining sector with a focus on contract negotiation, revenue generation and revenue distribution.
  • Advocating for tax justice and addressing tax justice and addressing illicit financial flows.
  • Promoting public access to extractives sector information
  • Monitoring mining companies’ compliance with national laws.
  • Influencing legal and policy reforms for improved mineral resources governance.

Land and Natural Resources

Historically, land tenure has been controversial in Zimbabwe. At the moment the main legal challenge for rural communities is weak tenure rights over communal land which is state owned. Land grabbing and evictions driven by private actors getting land for mining or large scale agricultural projects such as biofuels are increasingly becoming an issue of concern. When acquiring communal land little or no effort is made to apply the concept of free, prior informed consent (FPIC). The Chisumbanje biofuels project is a case in point where villagers are fighting against loss of land to investors. There is need to pay particular attention to land ownership and use rights in communal areas.[2]

Responsible Investments and Business

While government’s economic blue print, Zim Asset has many defects, the fact that it is anchored on exploitation of natural resources to trigger economic growth is a vitally interesting position for the association. They totally agree and recognize that investment in the natural resources sector is key for economic growth. However, the problem is that some laws and policies adopted by government do not attract and promote responsible investments and businesses. They are concerned about failure by government to create a conducive and predictable political and legal environment due to policy implementation inconsistencies. By responsible investors they refer to business practices that protect and promote human rights, the environment, labour rights and public disclosure of contracts and revenues. These are values that are not being applied by many local and foreign businesses-some of whom are opportunists taking advantage of a government desperate for investors. The country has been opened up to investors who are solely concerned about profits and not about the social impacts of their activities at all. They internalize profits and socialize the negative impacts. This situation requires independent monitoring and provision of advice to government.

Local Service Delivery Governance

The 2008 -2009 cholera outbreak which killed almost 4000 people is a constant reminder of the danger of poor environmental service delivery. Yet local authorities are increasingly becoming unaccountable despite relying on rates paid by residents. Some services are not equitably distributed between high income and low income areas. In many cases, the views of residents in budgeting and planning processes are not taken into account. There is simply limited social accountability in service delivery and unresponsive local governance systems.

In the coming years they plan to use their area of expertise, environmental justice and law, in implementing several social accountability activities aimed at promoting accountable and democratic governance systems at the local level. They will use environmental and social service delivery issues as a window to promote good governance and democracy at the local level. They will do this by partnering residents associations and other groups.

Hwange National Park Mining

The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) filed court papers on 7 September 2020 warning that Hwange National Park would turn into a "site for drilling, land clearance, road building and geological surveys" if coal exploration went ahead. Following a cabinet meeting on Tuesday 8 September 2020, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced the ban on mining with immediate effect. "Steps are being undertaken to immediately cancel all mining titles held in national parks," she said.[3]

On 16 September 2020, Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Owen Tagu has struck off the roll a case where the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) and a Hwange resident sought to bar a Chinese mining firm, Zhongxin Mining Group Tongmao Coal Company (Pvt) Ltd (Zimbabwe Zhongxin Coal Mining Group), from conducting coal mining operations inside Hwange National Park.

“Having considered the papers filed of record, it would seem while the necessary paperwork was done, some appear to have been done after the special grants were issued. While the matter on the face of it appears urgent on that basis, the application still is improperly before the court because the relevant parties were not cited and there are material disputes of facts.

“I have been asked to dismiss the application, however I feel the appropriate action at this stage is to strike the matter off the roll of urgent matters in view of non-citations of relevant parties and the existence of material disputes of fact,” Justice Tagu ruled.[4]

Board of Directors

  • Board Chairperson - Professor Tumai Murombo
  • Executive Director - Mutuso Dhliwayo
  • Josiah Chinherende
  • Makanatsa Makonese
  • Naome Chimbetete
  • George Gapu
  • Innocent Hodzonge
  • Deputy Director - Shamiso Mtisi
  • Tarisai Munemo

Contact

  • 26B Seke Road, Hatfield, Harare
  • Telephone: +263242573601-3
  • Email: info@zela.org
  • Website: http://www.zela.org/


References

  1. [1], ESCR-Net, Accessed: 15 September, 2020
  2. [2], Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association, Accessed: 15 September, 2020
  3. [3], BBC, Published: 9 September, 2020, Accessed: 15 September, 2020
  4. Andrew Kunambura/Desmond Chingarande, [4], Newsday, Published: 16 September, 2020, Accessed: 16 September, 2020