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Committee on Land, Natural Resources and Empowerment neglected environmental
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association
January 28, 2010
Environmental Law Association (ZELA) noted with great concern a
number of initial missteps by the Constitutional Parliamentary Select
Committee (COPAC) and the Thematic Committee on Land, Natural Resources
and Empowerment in their quest to prepare questions and discussion
points for the constitutional reform public consultation and outreach
programme. The first meetings of the Thematic Committee on Land,
Natural Resources and Empowerment were held on the 11th -13th of
January 2010. ZELA's concerns are twofold; the first is the
unbalanced composition of the thematic committee. The second is
the lack of prioritization of critical environmental questions and
discussions points/questions during the discussions as summarized
in the report of the thematic committee.
of the composition of the Thematic Committee clearly indicates that
the majority of the members are parliamentarians from the two MDCs
and ZANU PF. Apart from MPs the committee meetings were attended
by chiefs and traditional leaders, a sizable number of political
party functionaries and a number of civil society activists from
the land and agricultural sector. Only one representative from the
community based natural resources management sector attended. Sadly,
no one from the environmental protection sector either from specialized
government departments or civil society was invited by COPAC. This
is despite the fact that names of environmentalists were submitted
to COPAC through the Civil Society Constitutional Coordinating Mechanisms
operating under the auspices of the National
Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO). Yet the
environmental institutions and individuals that were left out have
a better and more intimate understanding of key issues around environmental
and natural resources conservation and protection and would have
enriched the discussions. As will be outlined below, the failure
by COPAC to include environmentalists negatively affected and impoverished
the deliberations of the thematic committee as well as the content
of the discussion points that were raised during the meeting.
From the report
of the meeting, it is evident that the composition of the thematic
committee influenced and impinged on the content of the questions
and discussion points that were raised. Although there is no doubt
that the land question is a critical issue in Zimbabwe, the discussions
of the thematic committee mainly centred on land and agriculture.
In the end the majority of the questions raised were heavily biased
towards land and agriculture at the detriment of other sectors like
environmental protection, natural resources management and empowerment.
To give the numbers, a total of 21 questions or discussion points
were raised and agreed on. Out of that 15 questions are based on
the land issue, 3 on natural resources, 3 on empowerment and only
1 on the environment. The thematic committee appears to have been
more interested in the land issue at the expense of other issues
like empowerment, natural resources and environment. The environmental
question that was raised clearly shows lack of appreciation and
understanding of environmental protection issues by members of the
thematic committee as it is limited in scope and not open enough
to generate more information from the public during the consultations.
It appears that the majority of the members of the committee did
not bother to think about the environmental problems being faced
by people living in towns and cities caused by poor environmental
service delivery (water shortages, poor waste collection, air pollution
etc). The ghost of the cholera outbreak in 2008 should have reminded
them of the need to treat environmental protection as an equally
important issue that merits more discussion points and questions.
What the thematic committee missed is the need for the public to
be consulted on their environmental interests and views. In that
regard, the appropriate questions were not raised. If this gap is
not addressed it may result in the production of a half-baked product.
are ZELA's key demands to ensure that the process and content
of the constitutional reform generate adequate and credible information
on environmental protection from the public;
the thematic committee and include environmentalists and natural
resources management experts who can guide discussions on the
key questions for the outreach programme
- If it is
not possible to reconstitute the team, then subject the discussion
points or questions to public scrutiny by publishing them in newspapers
so that members of the public can make comments on them.
if the above is not possible the other alternative is to bring
together a team of experts from the land, environment, natural
resources and empowerment sector to further review and synthesise
the questions and discussion points.
- In the above
context, the thematic committee should reconsider the questions
and discussion points and include the following issues for public
consultation and discussion;
- Should there
be a right for people to live in a clean environment that does
not cause harm to health?
- What environmental
services should people be entitled to?
- Do people
want access to environmental information to be included in the
- Do people
want to be involved in environmental decision making processes?
- What environmental
principles should be included in the new constitution? (Examples
include: polluter pays, sustainable development and environmental
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