Date of Issue:10 December 2021
This year’s theme
for Human Rights Day is Equality – Reducing inequalities, advancing human
The theme is
aligned with the United Nation’s 2030 agenda that emphasizes the need to find sustainable
solutions for deep-rooted forms of discrimination that have affected the most
vulnerable people in society, including women, girls, and indigenous peoples.
Environmental Law Association (ZELA), we join the rest of the world in
celebrating the Human Rights Day. As a public interest law organization, ZELA
emphasizes the need for businesses to respect, protect, promote, and fulfill
human rights. This is the essence of responsible investments. The State also has a mandate to ensure that the
rights of its citizens are guaranteed.
The Constitution of
Zimbabwe contains several provisions regarding human rights entitlements, and
several statutory enactments. The broad range of human rights considerations
contained in the Declaration of Rights (Chapter 4), speaks to business
standards, labour rights, environmental rights, and the duty of the State, the
individual and the business entity to respect, protect, fulfil, and promote
human rights. Section 44 states that “The State and every person, including
juristic persons, and every institution and agency of the government at every
level must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights and freedoms set out
in this Chapter”. This provision expressly makes business entities duty-bound
to advance the Declaration of Rights.
The Human Rights
Day comes at a time when a lot is happening in the mining sector. Although the
sector’s contribution to the economy cannot be ignored, ZELA is saddened by the
prevalent violations of fundamental rights within the mining sector. This
includes development induced displacements without the free, prior and informed
consent of traditional communities.
Article 10 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
People adopted in 2007, provides that companies should not forcibly remove
indigenous people from their land or territories. This means that no relocation
ought to take place without free and informed consent of the indigenous people
should be carefully made, with full consent of the concerned people so that no
affected person, group, or community has their standard of living, culture and
social cohesion diminished as a result. Therefore, communities must be afforded
an opportunity to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect
The “Zimbabwe is open
for business” mantra must include sustainability and human rights compliance.
Zimbabwe must be cautious and avoid falling into the trap of elevating the
needs of foreign investors at the expense of the local communities and the
rights of locals. There must be robust fidelity to constitutional provisions
that promote responsible resource management and fiscal accountability.
ensure that there is a clear reporting and disclosure framework embedded into
every agreement to ensure that the Executive complies with the relevant
sections of the Constitution. Historically, there is a mismatch between human
rights standards and practice when it comes to businesses. There is need for a
clear policy on human rights principles guiding business in Zimbabwe and to
ensure a deliberate process of aligning the principles with business practice.
A good investment policy must have a strong human rights component and a strong
legal system to support the realization of the rights of all affected people.
Abuse of human
rights in business and specifically in mining, has a direct correlation with
poor resource governance. To address mineral leakages, ZELA recommends that
policies must be adopted and enforced, to address leakages and illicit flows,
including curbing transfer pricing and trade mis invoicing. Government tax
regime must also be harmonized, and full disclosure made of tax incentives
vis-à-vis revenues forgone.
As we commemorate
the International Human Rights Day, we also highlight the challenges faced by
women in Artisanal and Small-scale mining that need urgent address. Measures to
improve the work environment, tackle gendered violence, labour rights must be
put in place.
Let us ensure that
we strive to promote Equality as a fundamental human right. That way we can be
able to Reduce inequalities and continue advancing human rights as emphasized
in this year’s International Human Rights Day theme.