In my last instalment, I pointed out that Zimbabwe is one of the leading countries in Africa in terms of work on the environment.
Report by Wisdom Mdzungairi
However, the implementation of the Mines and Minerals Act vis-à-vis environment and/or climate change, has become quite controversial. How exploring the land resources for mining can supersede the right of communities already using the land for farming, without any compensation to the farmer is still a mystery.
For once a mining claim is pegged, all other acts cannot be considered. Supersession may be an acceptable feature of a legal system, but the supersession of a sustainable land use such as agriculture by surface mining that is dependent upon a non-renewable resource is a questionable practice from an environmental point of view. It has further proved difficult to enforce land reclamation after mining operations have ceased given the forced relocation of communities. This has presented environmental challenges of unparalled proportions.
Again, the country has adequate expertise capable of monitoring natural resource degradation, but less so far the regulation of industrial pollutants in the atmosphere and in water bodies. The implementation of the relevant Acts (Hazardous Substances and Articles Act, Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act and the Water Act) is dependent upon accurate monitoring, which the government has not been able to do systematically due to lack of qualified manpower.
In some cases, the various pieces of legislation are conflicting, which leads to further problems of implementation. In other words, while one may argue that there is no lack of legislation per se, the various laws are fragmented and lawmakers have failed in 32 years to develop a coherent national environmental policy in the form of umbrella legislation.
A closely-related legal innovation concerns the management of wildlife resources. The utilisation of these resources is carefully regulated, even on private land. Thus, a landowner needs to be licensed in order to hunt specific animals on his own land, yet where Statecraft players have chosen to double-dip to satisfy their greed at the expense of the environment and the poor masses, nothing stops them.
MPs Edward Chindori-Chininga and Patrick Zhuwao recently said that the climate change phenomenon required a lot of research (which is lacking among the generality of the legislators) to enable them to put in place a policy that is knowledge-based with clear guidelines on how people must respond to issues of global warming.
It appears to me though that a policy vacuum and lack of knowledge among MPs on the effects of climate change has for long threatened the country’s goal to achieve full agricultural potential.
Generally MPs are aware of the short-term impacts of climate change and are willing to act. But they appear less sure of the appropriate policy response required to do so. Hence if MPs are to play their part in the “bottom-up” design of climate policy, and according to the International Institute for Environment and Development, if our countries are to join the growing number of nations acting in parallel with the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, MPs’ knowledge and skills need to be developed so that they can truly hold government to account. Of course, tackling domestic climate change can’t be confined to cutting emissions, as climate change is a cross-cutting issue. A raft of initiatives and regulatory measures aimed at mitigation and adaptation is required.
MPs need training on how to effectively mainstream climate considerations into sectoral policy and legislation, and how to scrutinise dedicated umbrella policies – proposed by the Executive. Both approaches are necessary to ensure a comprehensive approach to the effects of climate change.
The institutional architecture and the processes of Parliament merits consideration as well when developing a training or “capacity-building” programme. This includes covering the mechanics of parliamentary business –the committees, the support networks, political relationships, partisanship and Executive influence. Precisely, it is important that the Clerks of Parliament assist in ensuring that climate change is integrated into committee business. If due consideration is not given to such structures and processes, acquired institutional knowledge gained by MPs may be lost, hampering the integration of climate change responses into debate and decision-making.
International agreements are vital, and countries can’t just act in isolation. However, if international agreements continue to come up short, a point may be reached where there is a critical mass of nations that have enacted their own national legislation – an alternative route to a similar outcome, some analysts have argued.
Before any of this can take place, the capacity of key stakeholders must be built –MPs included. They form the human foundation for effective national action plans to tackle climate change.