Harare-The Parliament of Zimbabwe has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), an official partnership that will see the latter contributing effectively to the Parliament’s key functions that include legislative, representative and oversight.
ZELA is a premier public interest environmental law organisation which seeks to promote environmental justice, sustainable and equitable use of natural resources, democracy and good governance in the natural resources and environment sector. ZELA’s work is mainly anchored on a core group of rights which are reflective of natural resources governance namely; Environmental, Economic, Social and Cultural (EESC) rights. As such a large component of the organisation’s work involves influencing implementation and reforms within legal,policy and institutional frameworks governing the environment and natural resources sector through research, civic education, advocacy and strategic litigation.
The Memorandum came at a time where the Parliament of Zimbabwe has developed a five (5) year Institutional Strategic Plan (ISP) 2018-2023, which provides a vehicle for it to fulfil its legislative, representative and oversight function to ensure peace, order and good governance of the country as espoused in Section 112 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Similarly , ZELA is in the process of finalising its five year strategic plan which will run from 2020-2024.
The Parliament’strategic objective 1:1 reads, Hold all institutions and agencies of the State and government at every level accountable to Parliament while Strategy 1.1.2 notes that this will be achieved through; Enhancing public participation in the oversight work of Parliament. This also relates to ZELA’s new strategy specifically the organisation’s objective on Responsible Investments and Business where the organisation for the next five years will commit to promote responsible and sustainable private and public sector investments and businesses that respect human rights in the natural resources sector. The work will include advocating and raising awareness on business and human rights issues to ensure that Government’s obligation to protect human rights, corporation’s duty to respect human rights and the communities’ right to benefit from the exploitation of natural resources are reflected in Zimbabwe’s laws, policies and practices. ZELA will also build the capacity of communities, CSOs, human rights commission, parliamentarians and other stakeholders to hold the Government and businesses accountable where human rights have been violated in the course of doing business and exploitation of natural resources through redress mechanisms.
In the new Parliament Strategy, ZELA will also contribute in enhancing effectiveness of Parliamentarians in the law-making process. Timely passing of laws that are consistent with the Constitution is a key result area in the ISP. It has been noted that what remains a major challenge is the existing old and colonial legal architecture especially the Mines and Minerals Act. The Act does not adequately deal with environmental protection, transparent issuance of mining rights and public disclosure of mining revenues. Since 2007, there are several stalled legal reform processes initiated by government such as the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, Draft Minerals Policy, a diamond law and exploration law and till to date nothing has materialized. Legal research and advocacy is ZELA’s forte hence the public interest law organisation will initiate processes to promote and influence legal reforms in the coming five years.
Over the years, the premier public interest law organisation has taken part in parliament business by building the capacity of parliamentarians, participated in public hearings and petitioned parliament where necessary as it drives its mission of promoting equitable, just, sustainable environmental and natural resources management for the benefit and on behalf of marginalised communities in Zimbabwe.
“This is not the first MOU signed between ZELA and the Parliament of Zimbabwe, the previous one was signed in May 2015. We are pleased with the role we played as an organisation during the previous session. ZELA managed to build the capacity of legislators to scrutinise legal reforms for the benefit of the citizenry. The organisation will continue offering its expertise and strengthening the capacity of Parliamentarians for effective monitoring, oversight and influence on utilisation of public resources and executive decisions in the extractives sector. Overally, we will support the overarching goal of Parliament’s ISP; A Parliament that supports the attainment of a prosperous Zimbabwe that sustainably and equitably benefits all people,” saidZELA’s Executive Director, Mutuso Dhliwayo.
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association
“Environmental justice through sustainable and equitable utilisation of natural resources and environmental protection”