Business Climate Community Development

ZELA urges environmental stewardship in festive season message

Mutuso Dhliwayo

By Mutuso Dhliwayo (ZELA Executive Director) 

22 December 2022
Dear Partners, Stakeholders, and Donors
RE: Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association Executive Director’s End-of-Year Message
As 2022 comes to an end, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support. The success of the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) is based on the relationships we have built over the years, and we really would not be where we are today without you. Our passion and mission of promoting equitable, just, and sustainable environmental and natural resources management and protection of marginalised communities and citizens in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa remains strong.
Mineral resources are essential components of the energy transition, and demand for transition minerals such as lithium is already increasing. The boom-and-bust nature of demand creates an imperative for strengthening the governance of mineral value chains including the need to promote the rights of communities. The establishment of a robust legal and regulatory framework is essential to the successful implementation of any extractive regime and the safeguarding and protection of both communities and the environment.
In 2022, we made it clear that as the move towards a just transition gains momentum, it is important that the transition is well-managed and contributes to the goals of decent work for all, social inclusion, and the eradication of poverty.  ZELA made meaningful contributions to climate action including being part of the COP27 where we managed to join the important conversations and made clear our calls.
The planetary ills affecting the current and future prosperity demand that we adopt initiatives to protect the planet. In June 2022, the organisation had the pleasure of participating in the Stockholm+50 Leadership dialogue 3 where the discussion was centered around, Accelerating the implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.  The dialogue enabled an exchange of ideas on opportunities to overcome barriers to implementation, connect actions, and create new, intergenerational pathways for change to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. The organisation made several submissions on how we can solve the environmental crisis focusing on economic systems changes, governance, transitions, and actions that are necessary for this to be achieved.
Moreover, there is indeed a growing recognition by all stakeholders of the need for a legally binding treaty on business and human rights. This year we participated in the 8th session of the negotiations for a legally binding instrument on business and human rights and the African Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights as well as the  Dialogue on National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights in the Southern Africa Region. The negotiations and the meetings are an integral part of the organisation’s work, especially around responsible investments and business.
There is an urgent need for businesses to adopt human rights policies, and conduct human rights due diligence, particularly for environmental, social, and governance issues. In addition, corporations must establish transparent and effective grievance redress mechanisms for any human rights violations for which they are directly responsible.
In addition, we remained in solidarity with Environmental Human Rights Defenders who despite their important contribution in the promotion, protection, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, have become the target of attacks, aggressions, and threats to restrict them in their work. ZELA   empowered them on how they can claim and secure their rights, including justice and reparation. We called for mainstreaming and strengthening collective protection, increasing access to information, reinforcing digital protection for defenders, and providing legal advice and training.
In our advocacy initiatives, we emphasized the duty of the State to protect human rights defenders and to guarantee them a safe and enabling environment for their work. The States have the duty to protect human rights defenders from threats and violence by State and non-State actors; to investigate and guarantee accountability for any threat or attack against defenders, victims, and communities regarding their work on business and human rights; and to provide legal and non-legal reparations that are accessible, affordable, quick, and effective and guarantee no repetition. ZELA also attended the  Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders’ Annual Summit.
On the land and natural resources front, we did not falter to advocate for legal and policy reforms that enable the promotion of just and equitable natural resources. Strengthening the legal and policy framework by accelerating the reviewing of the National Wildlife Policy of 1992 and the Parks and Wildlife Act and devolving the administration and management of wildlife to communities by giving them appropriate status authority including the urgent need to address Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) are some of the advocacy initiatives we have been involved in. In our research on HWC, trends, policy, and legal framework we highlighted that HWC has become a major concern for Zimbabwean communities residing adjacent to wildlife and protected areas. The ongoing legal and policy reviews should include mechanisms for effective management of HWC and these should be part of the larger conversation and development objectives for both people and wildlife resources including compensation of victims of HWC.
We were happy to learn that during the 32nd Cabinet meeting held on the 1st of November 2022, Cabinet considered and approved the establishment of the Human-Wildlife Conflict Relief Fund for Victims by way of funeral assistance and an amount paid towards hospitalization and treatment with a set limit.
Dear Partners, Stakeholders, and Donors as  2022 comes to an end, allow me to thank you once again for supporting ZELA’s vision, because of you, by every measure we are making our vision a reality.
This holiday season, may you and your loved ones experience the sparkle of Christmas.  We look forward to working with you next year.
Please note, our offices will be closed for the holidays from December 17, 2022, to January 16, 2023. For any urgent matters, do not hesitate to email me at [email protected]
Yours Sincerely,
ZELA Executive Director

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende