ZELA’s Deputy Director in a-no-holds-barred interview with Open Parly ZW


1. Who is Zela and what is the nature of your work in Zimbabwe?

ZELA is a public interest environmental law group that seeks to promote environmental justice, good natural resources management and community benefits. We help communities, Civil Society Organisations and other stakeholders through research, legal education, litigation and advocacy at local, national and international level. We have five programme areas; Extractives and Mining, Land and Natural Resources, Climate Change, Local Service Delivery Governance and Responsible Investments and Business and Human Rights.

2. When we talk about the environment what are we referring to?We are referring to the natural and man made resources including soil, water, wildlife, trees, ecosystems, landscapes, minerals etc

3. How do you define the state of the natural environment in Zimbabwe?

We have lost a lot of natural resources due to human activity and climate change, although we still have some protected areas and ecosystems that are still intact, these are also under threat from human activity.

4. Which sector has been at the forefront of depleting the environment in Zimbabwe and what can be done?

Mining has been major contributor to depletion of natural resources & the environment. Mining activities are encroaching into protected areas & in cases where mining takes place some companies, especially the Chinese & artisanal gold miners do not rehabilitate the environment after mining. This has caused land degradation, water pollution, air pollution, displacement of communities and loss of land.

5. Just recently there was fire at Pomona, what does this mean for the environment?

It’s a sign of environmental pollution or air pollution to be precise. It shows failure by City of Harare to put in place adequate waste management measures. Every year fire breaks out at Pomona & a lasting solution has not been found.

6. People have been developing structures in wetlands what is the effect?Developing structures in wetlands sucks out all the naturally flowing water that feeds rivers and dams to sustain life and ecosystems. The wetlands will dry. Most of the developments are illegal and contrary to Section 113 of the Environmental Management Act.

7. Whose role is it to ensure wetlands are protected?

It is everyone’s responsibility to protect wetlands. In this case any land owner or occupier has a duty to protect wetlands.

ZELA’s Deputy Director,Shamiso Mtisi

8. Where does the issue of property rights and protection of wetlands interact?

In cases where a land owner or occupier with title over land or lease agreement on land on which a wetland may be situated. In the event that the land is declared by the Minister as an ecologically sensitive area, any developments in the areas have to be authorized. If the declaration results in limitation of enjoyment or deprivation of property rights, negotiations on any forms of compensation may ensue, including the need to follow the legal processes outlined in Section 71 of the Constitution on compulsory deprivation of property rights.

9. Are we saying people should completely stay away from wetlands and cannot derive economic benefits from them?

No. In terms of the law,developments can be undertaken in wetlands, but only under the authority of the Minister and following all prescribed environmental management processes such as conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Economic benefits can also be derived from wetlands as these act as water reservoirs which feed dams and rivers which in turn supplies cities and towns. Tourism can also flourish in some wetland areas and this brings economic benefits.

10. What is natural resource governance and whose role is it?

Natural resources governance refers to the systems, laws, policies, institutional frameworks and decision-making processes put in place in the natural resources sector. It relates to how decisions are reached and by who. Therefore, it includes an understanding of the role of Governmental institutions or official, citizen participation and even private sector engagement in natural resources management.

11. How are natural resources governed in Zimbabwe compared to other countries?

Zimbabwe fairs very well compared to other African countries I have visited in terms of natural resources governance. But this does not mean we don’t have problems and we should not address them. Zimbabwe has well developed legal and institutional systems on natural resources management and governance. Conservation programmes are also in place in different sectors. However, the major weakness is implementation and enforcement of environmental and natural resources laws and policies due to political interference, economic decay and corruption leading to loss of natural resources, illicit trade, environmental degradation and pollution of ecosystem and encroachment into protected wildlife and forest areas.

12. Anjin is back to mine diamonds in Chiadzwa, what does this mean for communities and the country?

Anjin needs to pay any outstanding liabilities and debts they may have to the country and communities. Shareholding structure (ownership or beneficial structure) should be made public. The company should religiously pay all royalties and other mining taxes to Government. Discrimination and abuse of workers by the Chinese should stop. The company should declare all rough diamond production figures and any export of diamonds in accordance with the Mines and Minerals Act and the Kimberley Process minimum requirements. The company should adopt responsible sourcing standards that includes carrying out due diligence measures to curb any potential negative impacts of its operations on the environment, human rights and the rights of workers. Displaced communities should be compensated adequately and given adequate notice before relocation. In light of COVID-19 the company should adopt safety and health measures to protect workers including provision of durable Personal Protective Equipment than poor quality ones. In this case the company should be required to adopt a comprehensive COVID-19 Workplace Policy.

13. Do you think proper measures have been put in place to protect the environment as well as the people there?

Reports indicate that some workers contracted COVID-19, this shows the company has not put in place adequate measures to protect workers. We need to look at their EIA and how they implement environmental programmes before judging them, but based on their previous record in Marange they have a very bad reputation when it comes to environmental management. Anjin polluted Save River and ODZI River from 2010 -2015. The situation was bad at that company. ZELA conducted water quality tests in Save and ODZI Rivers which indicated heavy physical and chemical pollution of the rivers from the Anjin processing plants.

14. Are you happy with the way Zimbabwe has managed its mineral resources?

No. We have a lot of minerals resources being lost and not benefiting the country, except a few companies and individuals especially in the gold and diamond sector. Until recently, Fidelity Printers has been fiddling with gold prices for a long time and not offering gold miners market price for gold and this drove a lot of the gold into the black market. Licensing of gold buying agents is questionable. At the same time Government is resisting formalising or passing a law to regulate and derive revenues from Artisanal Miners yet there has been an explosion of many people, including youths and women going into artisanal gold mining. Many of them sell their gold to the black market. In the diamond sector, Zimbabwe has nothing to show from the Diamond mining activities in Marange for example. The national fiscus is dry, communities are poor, no proper road infrastructure exist in Marange, inadequate schools facilities and health centers. All that we hear on a daily basis are human rights violations and no good news from Marange. It’s sad. Government has dismally failed. Corruption has flourished. Zimbabwe has to realise full benefits from Marange diamonds because of the bad record of human rights violations. As a result Zimbabwe diamonds are being sold on the cheap and undervalued because buyers from India and Dubai (UAE) are taking advantage of the bad reputation to get cheaper diamonds and resell at a premium. Kimberley Process statistics of diamond production and exports from Zimbabwe show all this I am talking about. So Zimbabwe should fix the poor image of Marange diamonds by curbing human rights violations, curbing corruption, supporting reforms in the Kimberley process to enable it to investigate cases of human rights abuses in different countries.

15. Communities surrounding mining area have remained poor, where is the disconnect?

Many mining companies are not interested in community development programmes that are sustainable or that bring income. They mostly focus on Corporate Social Responsibility actions and handouts that don’t change lives. However, there are some companies that have made efforts to improve community livelihoods and programmes including ZIMPLATS, MIMOSA and Murowa among others.

16. When we talk of Artisanal miners who are we talking about, does it include those panning gold in rivers?

Artisanal miners are those who are not licenced and are using rudimentary mining methods in different areas. They are informal and are called “Makorokoza”. They may move from one place to another depending on where a new gold vein is discovered or might work in old disused or abandoned mines or claims belonging to other people or companies. Simply and strictly speaking they are illegal miners if we look at the existing law which is the Mines and Minerals Act. So the term applies to those who are panning for gold in the rivers and digging for gold in the mountains and other places. But, but we have a situation where the country has no industry or jobs to talk about, the solution for any young man or women is to go into artisanal mining. The law provides for acquisition of a mining licence by any Zimbabwean above the age of 18, but the problem is accessibility of mining offices, costs associated with the application and failure by Government to further decentralize mining licencing to the lowest level of society.

17. Artisanal miners have been blamed for leaving uncovered pits everywhere, do we need artisanal miners?

We need licenced artisanal miners who can mine responsibly and can be regulated. They are important for the economy. If you look at gold production figures for 2019 more than 60% of gold deliveries were from the artisanal and small scale miners, although Government does not want to formalize artisanal miners. Government wants their gold, but not interested in regulating their operations-this is an absurdity. So we need artisanal miners to be given permits and required to adopt environmental rehabilitation programmes as is happening with Small Scale miners who now have to adopt Environmental Management Plans with the assistance of the Environmental a Management Agency.

18. What is required for Zimbabwe to effectively manage artisanal miners?

Zimbabwe should amend the Mines and Minerals Act by including a new class of mining licence or permit for artisanal mining reserved for Zimbabweans. This is not new—Sierra Leone, Liberia, Philippines and many other countries have such licences. EMA has already developed regulations on environmental management plans which can be used by artisanal miners. Alternatively, artisanal mining can be effectively managed through use of Tributary Agreements where holders of mining licences or companies holding mining claims can enter into agreements with artisanal miners to mine on their land and the artisanal miners pay or share proceeds with the claim owner, and includes some environmental rehabilitation programmes. This model appears to be applied at Shurugwi Development Association.

19. What efforts are there to make sure artisanal miners are aware of their environmental obligations?

Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association has a training programme for artisanal miners on mining legislation, safety, health and environmental rights. This covers different parts of the country. The programme includes provision of mining equipment, mapping of artisanal mining sites in Runde, training on responsible sourcing and business & human rights and registering women groups as legal entities to start artisanal and small scale mining operations.

20. Are Environmental laws in Zimbabwe effective in protecting the environment?

While the Constitution and the Environmental Management Act contains environmental rights, these rights have not been fully respected and protected in practice. Their justiciability or realization also depends on availability of resources. This means Government or companies can claim that they do not have resources to implement programmes to respect and protect environmental rights.

21. We have seen that mining usual take precedence over farming, what is the situation with environmental laws?

I don’t think legally speaking this is still correct in recent times following the passage of the Environmental Management Act. Any exploration or mining operation has to be done after an EIA is done. So mining cannot just take place and can be stopped by EMA. So when it comes to farming any prospector or miner has to seek consent of land owner or occupier in terms of the Mines and Minerals Act. So mining should not just happen. However, the conflict between farmers and miners is real. With private land owners or farmers, mining should not start without their consent. The problem always arise with communal land or agricultural land owned by Government or State land where Government and local authorities give away land to miners without adequate consultation, notices or any form of compensation to communal residents.

22. The Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill has dragged,why ?

I think the process has been delayed due to conflicting stakeholder interest and vested interests. Some may not want the law to change the status quo when it comes to mining licencing, farmer-miner conflicts, environmental rehabilitation fund, establishment of a cadastre system and reconstitution of the composition of the Mining Affairs Board. The other factor is the nature of amendments being proposed which are complex to be effected through an amendment. The whole Mines Act should have been repealed and we start afresh. It’s an old law.

23. What are the effects of dragging this Bill on the environment? The environment will continue to be degraded and establishment of the Rehabilitation Fund will be delayed.

24. Who is going to benefit the most from the Mines Bill?

Small scale miners will be recognized if Bill is passed in current. Land owners and farmers rights will also be protected to some extent.

25. Some people say diamonds are a curse, would say that is true using the Zimbabwe situation, give reasons.

Diamonds are an exceptionally amazing naturally occurring resource. They are not bad in themselves but man has made diamonds earn a bad name and to be considered a curse. Starting with the wars and conflicts fueled by diamonds in Liberia, Sierra Leone, DRC and Angola diamonds have been abused by criminals, warlords, rebels, and now some states and state security to cause human suffering, destabilize peace and security. While in the past diamonds were used by rebels to fight legitimate Governments, nowadays they are being used or being extracted by states themselves, mining companies, criminals and private security in a way that results in systematic and widespread violence, human rights abuses, environmental harm, poor labour practices across the whole diamond supply chain. In Zimbabwe the state, state security and mining companies have all been complicit in human rights violations, which is a new form of the diamond curse different from the rebel movements of the past.

26. How do you work with communities surrounding National parks what challenges do they have? We provide legal training to communities living near national parks on wildlife laws and crimes. We also register community wildlife conservation groups in areas such as Mbire, Binga, Hwange and Kariba among others. The major problems they face include human-wildlife conflicts and limited benefits from wildlife management programmes.

27. There was talk of building a Grand Prix in Victoria Falls, from environmental perspective is that good? The most important thing to do is to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment before such a project is implemented. It’s potential environmental, social, community and economic impacts will be considered and weighed before the project goes ahead. All the factors have to be considered than focusing only on environmental factors which in some cases might be outweighed by the economic benefits or vice versa. 28. What needs to be changed in Zimbabwe is it the laws or people’s attitudes with regards to the environment?I think the law is largely good. What’s needs to be improved is implementation and enforcement. The environmental laws we have are closely aligned with the new Constitution for example. People’s attitudes can also be changed through public education and training at schools to build a culture of environmental consciousness. All these principles are contained in the Environmental Management Act.

28. Why has waste separation failed in Zimbabwe? In a few cases it happens at some companies that are ISO certified and have Waste Management Plans. But in the majority of cases the waste receptacles or bins are not available in the first place especially in public places, so all sorts of waste is thrown anywhere and everywhere.

29. If you were to be appointed Minister of Environment today what five things will you change and why?

I would do the following; a) establish an environmental rehabilitation fund or bond for companies whose operations require EIAsb) revamp and resource environmental inspections units c) collaborate with Ministry of Finance to develop a comprehensive framework for balancing Environmental Needs and Economic Development. This is keyd) Attract investments in the climate and energy smart technologies for adaptation and mitigation of climate change. e) encourage communities and other stakeholders to harness emerging technologies or IT for environmental conservation programmes in hotspot areas such as protected areas and mining areas.

30. If you were to meet President Mnangagwa today what will you say to him with regards to natural resource governance?

Fix the problems in the diamond and gold mining sector so that those sectors fully benefit the citizens and economy. Plugging leakages of minerals and promoting transparency and accountability is key.

31. What is your message to the people of with regards to protecting the environment?

It is everyone’s duty to protect the environment. We need to balance environmental protection with economic development.0People reached0EngagementsBoost postLikeCommentShare

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