BY ARNOLD FANDISO
THE Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) has urged government to adopt human rights-based approaches and policies on development-induced relocations to protect minority groups who have often been displaced by national projects.
Citing the case of Chilonga villagers in Chiredzi, who were recently ordered to vacate their ancestral land to pave way for a lucerne production project, Zela said the programme was carried out haphazardly, hence the backlash.
In a statement reacting to the issuance of Statutory Instrument (SI) 50 of 2021 which was later repealed by SI 72A, Zela said the sudden change of land use plan in Chilonga also showed lack of proper planning by government.
“The government is urged to stop the reactionary approach to projects, but come up with projects that are people centred. The (Chilonga) case demonstrates that the rights of indigenous communities need to be protected and Zimbabwe needs to come up with a proper mechanism for that,” Zela said.
“The government was forced firstly to amend and ultimately to repeal Statutory Instrument (SI) 50/2021 in response to the legal arguments raised by Zela. This case has also shown the abuse of statutory instruments as a strategy to frustrate ongoing court cases, a tactic that should be frowned upon.”
The environmental lawyers said the repeal of SI 50 demonstrated the effect of the use of public interest litigation as a tool to hold the State accountable and overturn unjust laws.
“Most importantly, the response from Chiredzi Rural District Council shows the need to amend and come up with human rights-based approaches and policies on development-induced relocations,” Zela said.