By Felix Matasva
A PUBLIC interest law organisation, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) says Zimbabwe must avoid being gullible to foreign investors by ensuring the rights of local communities are not jeopardised.
In a statement to commemorate Human Rights Day, ZELA noted the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra must integrate sustainability and strict adherence to human rights.
“Zimbabwe must be cautious and avoid falling into the trap of elevating the needs of foreign investors at the expense of the local communities and the rights of locals,” it said.
“There must be robust fidelity to constitutional provisions that promote responsible resource management and fiscal accountability.”
The natural resources governance watchdog emphasised the need for businesses in Zimbabwe to respect, protect, promote, and fulfill human rights.
“Abuse of human rights in business and specifically in mining has a direct correlation with poor resource governance. To address mineral leakages, ZELA recommends that policies must be adopted and enforced, to address leakages and illicit flows, including curbing transfer pricing and trade mis-invoicing.”
ZELA urged the government to harmonise its tax regime by making disclosures of tax incentives.
It said it was annoyed by widespread violations of fundamental rights within the southern African nation’s mining sector.
“This includes development-induced displacements without the free, prior, and informed consent of traditional communities. Relocation plans should be carefully made, with full consent of the concerned people so that no affected person, group, or community has their standard of living, culture and social cohesion diminished as a result.
“Therefore, communities must be afforded an opportunity to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights.”
ZELA also called on the Parliament to foster a clear reporting and disclosure framework to ensure the state adhered to relevant constitutional obligations.
“Historically, there is a mismatch between human rights standards and practice when it comes to businesses. There is a need for a clear policy on human rights principles guiding business in Zimbabwe and to ensure a deliberate process of aligning the principles with business practice.
“A good investment policy must have a strong human rights component and a strong legal system to support the realisation of the rights of all affected people.”