Call for establishment of environmental courts to deal with saboteurs

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By Staff Reporter

THERE is need to establish environmental courts to effectively deal with environment related crimes, the Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe (FCZ) has said.

An official with the commission, Aaron Chifunga said the establishment of environmental courts will help to effectively deal with environment related crimes such as illegal mining and deforestation across the country.

“The establishment of such court will help such crimes be given the attention they deserve and dealt with accordingly,” he said.

Chifunga was speaking at a Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust (GGZ) and Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) community feedback meeting on the management of forests in Manicaland province.

He said it was necessary for government to invest in establishing such courts to deal with specific environment crimes that are being committed across the country.

“Environmental crimes are our biggest challenge and even if the commission joins hands with police and local government on law enforcement, we are still under-resourced especially dealing with cases like deforestation and illegal mining.

“Moreover, a challenge is also apparent on the use of magistrates’ courts to try environmental crimes. These courts are not designed to resonate with impacts of environmental sabotage even on communal lands.

“Thus, why it is important that government invests in environmental courts unlike the magistrates’ courts that do not give deterrent penalties to offenders,” said Chinofunga.

The call for government to establish environmental courts follows an outcry by locals over massive land degradation by illegal miners in areas such as Penhalonga in Mutasa district and Chimanimani National Park.

The miners are accused of digging holes and wantonly cutting down trees leaving open gullies on the land.