‘Judges should appreciate environmental, human rights’

AN environmental expert has challenged court officials to be more conversant with environmental and human rights issues to avoid giving communities a raw deal when it comes to benefits derived from the extractive sector.

By Nokuthaba Dlamini

Professor Tumai Murombo made the call in Victoria Falls last Friday during a presentation on new business opportunities in Zimbabwe versus environmental, economic, social and cultural rights hosted by the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ)’s winter school’s 2018 programme.

He said communities were not benefiting from their local resources and there was need for revision of laws in the Constitution to cater for those vulnerable people, hence the need for law professionals to study and familiarise with international standards on human rights.

“Resource nationalism continues to be a big challenge for us. What is really disappointing is that resource nationalism is not accompanied by any visionary plan of action in the strategy of long-term sustainability. How do you want to nationalise resources and how do you want to empower communities? We have very short-term political strategies that change with a change in political party and that is a serious violation of human rights,” he said.

“If we do not have supervised legislation, nothing is going to change. We are going to continue with resources to benefit capitalists whilst destroying livelihoods, destroying communities. Go to Chiadzwa mine and see the state of the river downstream of the mining companies and upstream; take the water samples and compare. We did that and we went to court and we lost it.

“Our judiciary review needs some education. Everybody needs to learn, including me. But the challenge that we face in the judiciary across the world is that we don’t want to hear the word training. The moment you say we want to train judges in environmental law; they say what do you mean? I am the judge; you want to imply that all this time l have been messing up on judgements, so it’s a struggle that we have. Instead, they refuse and prefer to be trained by retired judges, who themselves retired before the time of environmental law and sustainable development was crafted.”

Murombo said corruption, decline in GDP, frosty international relations and trade relationships led to restrictive measures and the effect was still the same in terms of impact on the economy, even in the new dispensation era.

The conference ran under the theme “Thriving in the Changing Times”.

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