Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) has urged government to institute legal reforms which give effect to the ban on mining activities in national parks as a way of tackling various sustainable wildlife management challenges in the tourism sector.
ZELA executive director Mutuso Dhliwayo said such reforms are long overdue in light of an increase in both legal and illegal mining operations in national parks, conservancies, and recreational areas.
He said in its current form, the pronouncement has no legal binding force and hence provisions of the Parks and Wildlife Act in terms of section 119 remain in force, until such a time the law is amended.
Dhliwayo said ZELA will collaborate with stakeholders and the Government to ensure the legal and statutory amendments necessary to give legal effect to the ban are instituted.
"... while a pronouncement was made on the ban of mining in national parks, the legal position is that the pronouncement has no legal binding force and hence the provisions of the Parks and Wildlife Act in terms of section 119 remain in force until such a time the law is amended.
"ZELA will continue calling on the Government of Zimbabwe to amend the Parks and Wildlife Act and other statutory instruments to give legal effect to the ban. We expect a clear outline on the Bill factoring in the government policy pronouncement on the ban of mining in protected areas," he said.
Zimbabwe wildlife is key in the tourism industry, impacting on social and economic lives, hence strong accountability initiatives are a required for leaders to account for social and environmental outcomes of their decisions.
Despite inevitable human wildlife conflicts, communities play a critical role in sustainable wildlife conservation while also anticipating benefits from revenue generated through exploitation of natural resources, said Dhliwayo.
He said ZELA will also 'work closely with the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry' which is in the process of developing a Zimbabwe Wetlands Policy.
"It is recommended that the role of communities in wildlife management and utilization be spelt out clearly in legislation. Furthermore, ZELA will conduct more empirical research on the socio-economic impacts of the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) within rural communities to ensure that community views shape conservation strategies.
"It is our belief that wetlands are vital in the country's ecosystem and their management requires the attention they deserve especially now when there are competing claims for land utilization. We hope the policy will establish an effective and efficient institutional and legal framework for integrated management and sustainable use of wetlands.
"ZELA believes the rents from the exploitation of our rich natural resource base should be contributing towards human, social, economic, and political development. On the contrary, we have a different tale to tell," he said.
Zimbabwe has several laws and policies on the radar, and we intend to make our contribution. These include but are not limited to the Parks and Wildlife Act, Tourism Act, Wildlife Policy, Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, the Minerals Development Policy, the Forest Policy, Wetlands Policy and Forest Amendment Bill.
There are also a number of laws that have been proposed for harmonization with the constitution, these include the Rural District Councils Act, the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act and the Environmental Management Act.