MUTARE– Communities in resource rich areas are facing increased risks of human rights violations due to increased exploration and mining activities, which are not guided by proper legal and policy guidelines, a public interest organization says.
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) senior legal office Nyaradzo Mutonhori said there has been increased investment into the mining sector during under the National Development Strategy 1, which is under pinned by mining.
Mutonhori, who was speaking on the sidelines of a two day media training, said the lack of proper legal frameworks, as finalization of the Mines and Minerals Bill continues to be delayed, opens up the community to greater risks of human rights violations.
“With the recent issuance of Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPOs) we beginning to see that there is going to be more and more activities within this key economic sector and we realize there is still limited understanding on the obligations of investor towards human rights,” she said.
Mutonhori, said information asymmetry is a huge gap which lead to community rights being violated by investors as communities in resource rich areas are disempowered to voice their concerns during such developments.
Her comments have immediate reference of the recent Chilonga case where the community is under threat of relocation, as well as the Dinde community in Hwange which is also facing imminent eviction to pave way for Chinese coal miners.
“In terms of land use when govern decides to change the use of land, we feel it is important that the community is involved in to have a conversation and dialogue first. There is a huge gap on sharing of information and participation of communities in decision making processes before investments kick off.
“We should also understand that the communities have a customary claim to communal land and because of this it is critical that their voices are heard so that the relocations also do not end up as human rights violations themselves.
“We are talking about people’s livelihoods peoples’ shelter, we are looking at basic amenities like health education, access to clean water and if we are relocating communities all this need to be in place once they don’t have this information it also becomes unfair and may really increase risks of human tight violations,” she said.
Human rights conversation in the mining sector remain relevant due to the sheer contribution of the mining sector to the GDP, economic development and huge contribution to foreign currency earnings by government, said Mutonhori.
“The contribution of the mining sector to economic development especially towards Vision 2030 we continue to see that for instance the mining sector is still the largest foreign currency earner. ‘
“We also see that there is a lot of expansion and investment made in terms of geological surveys to find how much mineral we have and in which value chain. It’s critical that the communties start understanding mining obligations that corporates have in terms of protecting their rights on the community.
Mutonhori also said business entities have a responsibility to respect human rights, ignorance among different communities of their Constitutional rights, while governments have obligations to safeguard and protect communities from harm.