Parliament has been urged to capacitate civil society and communities claiming their economic, social and cultural rights whenever these rights come under threat from mining activities.
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) head, Shamiso Mtisi, said this in a publication; Extractive Industries Policy and Legal Handbook that Zela produced recently giving an overview of the extractive industry in Zimbabwe.
Mtisi is also the Kimberley Process local focal point person for Zimbabwe.
“Parliament can serve as a bridge between citizens and the State, and legislators are well positioned to represent the interests of their electors,” said Mtisi.
“Legislators should act as the institutionalised voice of citizens and protector of democratic principles by calling the government and mining companies to be accountable on revenue generation, management and distribution, contract negotiation, access to information, displacement of local communities, environmental protection, community participation in mining and respect of human rights.”
He said it was important for MPs to play that role because there was a lot of hostility between civil society and communities on one hand, and the government and mining companies on the other.
Mtisi said generally a number of African countries, including Zimbabwe witnessed situations whereby the State and its institutions were hostile towards citizens who were determined to defend their national interests, environmental protection and human rights abuses by mining companies.
“By the same token, there is increased use of State security agencies and other institutions to repress the people, especially communities and civil society activists in order to create unfettered space and access to mining companies to exploit the mineral resources,” said Mtisi.
He said most minerals in Zimbabwe were being extracted for export, but the situation on the ground told a story of corruption, mismanagement of mineral resources, starting from the underground mining pits to the airconditioned offices of government officials and mining company executives.
“More so, it is a story of environmental degradation and pollution of water systems, loss of livelihoods, forced evictions and relocations, drug shortages, and so on. There are gross violations of human rights, especially environmental, economic, social and cultural rights of the people who live adjacent to mining areas,” he said.