HomeOpinionZela calls for displaced communities law

Cry for Zimbabwe: a great country in ruin

Zela also called for legislation to compel mining companies to engage in environmentally sustainable practices or to plough back part of their earnings into the affected communities.

Zela director Mutuso Dhliwayo identified lack of secure tenure over land and minerals as an “Achilles heel” in communities’ quest for fair and adequate compensation upon displacement from their ancestral lands and called on the state to give secure tenure to rural communities.

“This lack of secure tenure affects communities’ ability to effectively engage and bargain with the state and mining companies prior to, during and after the involuntary displacement and resettlement processes,” Dhliwayo said.

He said the sum effect of current laws like the Mines and Minerals Act, Communal Land Act Rural District councils Act and Traditional Leaders Act is to give communities mere access, use and management rights to the land rather than give them secure tenure.

“Although Section 80 of the Mines and Minerals Act and Section 12 of the Communal Land Act provide for compensation, it is however not a pre-condition for evictions and resettlement of communities,”Dhliwayo said.

United Nations Guiding Principles on internal Displacements provide that “adequate measures shall be taken to guarantee those to be displaced, full information on the reasons and procedures for their displacement”.

International best practice also requires that fair and adequate compensation should be discussed and agreed to before evictions and relocations and this has not been the case in Chiadzwa where relocations began and are continuing without compensation issues being agreed to between the mining companies and the affected communities.

In advocating for the need for binding legislation to promote sustainable development, Zela pointed out that at present, social responsibility initiatives are voluntary, not legally binding.

The lobby group gave the example of Mberengwa where mining companies had systematically extracted emeralds, gold, chrome and iron from the Nyala, Masaga, Sandawana and Buchwa areas but did not plough anything back to ensure sustainable development.

In 2009 Zela unsuccessfully petitioned the High Court to stop the diamond mining companies in Chiadzwa, Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, Ministry of Mines and Ministry of Local Government against relocating communities before issues of compensation were finalised.

Dhliwayo said the Ministry of Local Government, Urban and Rural Development failed to adequately consult and inform the 428 families that were relocated to Arda Transau a peri- urban area on the outskirts of Mutare, about 80 km from Chiadzwa.

They were paid “pittances” of US$ 1 000 as disturbance allowances and 150 kg of mealie-meal, among other things. About 4 200 families face displacement and relocation in order to pave way for expansion of diamond mining activities.

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