By Chadenga Lisberty-Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association Youth Network
03 March 2021
The success of every government action or framework hinges on the overall policy framework that national action and plan is found. Wildlife is a great source of pride in Zimbabwe not only because of its significant symbolism embedded in the country’s culture but also because wildlife is one of the major drivers of the country’s economy. Tourism is a cash cow. It would be remiss to discuss any aspect of life today without an appreciation of the events that transpired in the past year. 12 months ago, March was a breaking point in the history of all humanity. If COVID-19 has forced us to re-examine how we live and go about our business, the same must apply in the evaluation of the legal and policy frameworks within which the broader conversation of wildlife management.
‘Everything that is legal is permissible and all that is illegal is impermissible,’ goes a very common saying. This article attempts to analyse the legal provisions that are in existence to support policies enacted to manage wildlife resources. The key piece of legislation in terms of this legal position is the Parks and Wildlife Act (hereinafter referred to as the Act). This is an act promulgated in the year 1975, this is a stand-alone worrying fact which is exacerbated by the fact that a perusal of the said Act, its entire 130 sections (including repealed sections) show the grim reality that the word youth is mentioned not even once. This cannot be a shocker seeing as the Act is older than Zimbabwe as a sovereign nation. Two main issues arise at this point.
It is quite critical to note that wildlife management is also in the eyes of the youth. The fact that the Act was promulgated in 1975 means none of the youth were there to voice their opinions and now they must bear the consequences they were not a party to. This is obviously disheartening because when the youth are not actively engaged and involved it makes it a mountain to climb for them to actively engage and posit positive change in the way wildlife management is done.
The policy frameworks that exist in wildlife management like the Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) project has been criticized by many but in this paper the thrust is assessing its impact on the youth. It has barely borne fruit for the youth and it is being argued by the author that a large part of that boils down to the fact that the Act which is the key legal and legislative framework makes no mention for the provision of opportunities to the youth. In one discussion youth who live within and around wildlife areas joked to say the only thing they have gotten by staying so close to said areas is improved bravery owing to the significant amount of human wildlife conflict. The legal and legislative framework is inconspicuous for its failure to appreciate and improve the youth’s voices in the management of their wildlife resources.
The adage that says the youth are the leaders of tomorrow is not only a call to amend the legal and legislative frameworks but serves as a stern warning to the powers that be. When the youth are not involved in policies their desire to participate wanes and when the desire to participate wanes there is the accompanying fear that there will not be enough leaders in the time to come to carry the torch and improve the management of wildlife resources. The price to be paid by not actively including the youth in the country’s legal and legislative frameworks is in certain instances one paid in blood. An article stating that because of the poverty in many developing countries the youth have become easy targets used by criminal masterminds for poaching. In yet another article the suggested solution to Rhino poaching was the involvement of youth. One of the several positives of involving the youth in wildlife management is that it creates a generation of enthusiasts who are willing to work and improve the management procedures. The downside on the other hand is on those youth who are left not empowered and are vulnerable to being exploited to undertake initiatives that undermine management efforts.
The legislative process is backdated so much it is basically unsustainable in terms of youth involvement in wildlife management. The legal framework is largely unbothered by the plight of the youth.The policy frameworks are sadly underpinned based on the failed/failing legislative and legal framework and hence the policies too fail to take into consideration any specific efforts that can be made to address the needs of the youth. Our legal framework does not recognise the role the youth have to play in wildlife conservation. That mantle has been left and has been taken up by civil society organisations which is a wonderful thing CSOs are involved but now the country’s legal and legislative frameworks have to take up the torch too and partner the CSOs in carving up space for the youth.
The pandemic has been
deemed as an opportunity to reflect and mend our ways. It is pertinent that it
is exactly that we do in terms of youth involvement in wildlife management.
Perhaps a good start is the legislative aspect bearing in mind how it affects
the legal framework by clothing with legality or otherwise conduct, policy or
practice meant to advance wildlife management goals. There is need to amend the
Act and this is a call echoed in many spheres of life but by none other than
the youth who feel a more progressive Act will allow them to assert their
constitutional rights and force upon the duty bearers a responsibility to
deliberately involve the young in wildlife management.
 Parks and Wildlife Act (Chapter 20:14)
 Human Wildlife Conflict Awareness in Light of the COVID-19 Motivated Lockdown. Accessible at www.zimparks.org.zw
 Decade of Rhino Poaching. Safari News on April 22,2020