18 January 2021
Dear Partners, Stakeholders and Donors
RE: Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association Executive Director’s New Year Message
Compliments of the New Year!
We approach the new year with hopes anew decimated by the global concern about coronavirus whose negative impacts are once more on the increase. The world is under strife, weighed down by worry on what tomorrow holds for us. The rapid spread of a new variant of coronavirus is indeed a cause for concern. In our determination to live each day as it comes, we should all be in a race to prevent COVID-19 infections by making sure that we make the COVID-19 precautions our new habits.
Amid this global pandemic, we remain resilient on our mandate of promoting democracy, good governance and sustainable development from a natural resources governance approach. Our health system is under strain as the coronavirus surges back. ZELA believes the rents from the exploitation of our rich natural resource base should be contributing towards human, social, economic, and political development. On the contrary, we have a different tale to tell.
In Zimbabwe, even though wildlife plays a critical role in the tourism industry and has the capacity of transforming social and economic lives, there are no accountability initiatives to hold accountable powerful actors for the social and environmental outcomes of their decision. One of ZELA’s areas of programming under our current strategic plan is wildlife which falls under the Land and Natural Resources Programme and during the year, the organisation seeks to strengthen the weak wildlife laws in Zimbabwe by working closely with relevant stakeholders in pushing for the reform and amendment of the Parks and Wildlife Act and the Tourism Act. Zimbabwe faces multiple sustainable wildlife management challenges. One of the major challenges relates to community roles in wildlife planning, management, and utilization. The co-existence of wildlife and humans is under threat. This has resulted in conflicts which have led to loss of life, injury, and loss of property. While conflicts are inevitable, it is also proven that communities play a critical role in sustainable wildlife conservation as the first line of defense against poaching and illegal wildlife trade as well as sustainable use of wildlife. It is recommended that the role of communities in wildlife management and utilization be spelt out clearly in legislation. Furthermore, ZELA will conduct more empirical research on the socio-economic impacts of the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE)within rural communities to ensure that community views shape conservation strategies.
The organization will also work closely with the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry which is in the process of developing a Zimbabwe Wetlands Policy. It is our belief that wetlands are vital in the country’s ecosystem and their management requires the attention they deserve especially now when there are competing claims for land utilization. We hope the policy will establish an effective and efficient institutional and legal framework for integrated management and sustainable use of wetlands.
There has been an increase in both legal and illegal mining operations in national parks, conservancies, and recreational areas. As the government works closely with relevant stakeholders including ZELA in finalizing the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, among other critical aspects such as formalization of artisanal and small-scale mining, we expect a clear outline on the Bill factoring in the government policy pronouncement on the ban of mining in protected areas. This pronouncement purports the ban of mining activities in national parks. Thus, while a pronouncement was made on the ban of mining in national parks, the legal position is that the pronouncement has no legal binding force and hence the provisions of the Parks and Wildlife Act in terms of section 119 remain in force until such a time the law is amended. ZELA will continue calling on the Government of Zimbabwe to amend the Parks and Wildlife Act and other statutory instruments to give legal effect to the ban.
2021 will also see us continuing in calling for responsible investment and accountability in the management of natural resources. Accountability is a central principle for good governance because it serves to prevent or mitigate negative social and environmental impacts and abuse of power. Zimbabwe has several laws and policies on the radar, and we intend to make our contribution. These include but are not limited to the Parks and Wildlife Act, Tourism Act, Wildlife Policy, Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, the Minerals Development Policy , the Forest Policy , Wetlands Policy and Forest Amendment Bill. There are also a number of laws that have been proposed for harmonization with the constitution,these include the Rural District Councils Act, the Regional , Town and Country Planning Act and the Environmental Management Act.
Dear Partners, Stakeholders and Donors as we begin the year let us not lose hope. I wish you a safe, healthy, and prosperous new year!
Please note, we are officially back from the holidays with effect from 18 January 2021. However, as we continue our commitment to adhere to COVID-19 regulations, we will continue working virtually until further notice. For any urgent matters, do not hesitate to email me at email@example.com
ZELA Executive Director