Environment and tourism stakeholders had a consultative meeting in Harare yesterday to gather views on the review of the Parks and Wildlife Act [Chapter 20:14] to ensure that the Act meets the current needs of society whilst at the same time addressing a myriad of contemporary sector challenges.
In his keynote address, Honourable Mangaliso Ndlovu, the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry revealed the importance of reviewing the laws that govern wildlife management and protection in the country.
“The review is necessary to ensure that the Act meets the current needs of our society whilst at the same time addressing a myriad of contemporary challenges,” Minister Ndlovu said.
Zimbabwe has the second-largest population of elephants in the world. The approximately 83,000 elephants are against a much lower carrying capacity which is being influenced by a number of other socio-economic factors such as human population increase, climate change, and land-use change. There are also growing populations for other species that are endangered in other regions. These are also facing danger emanating from habitat loss, particularly the smaller herbivores. Zimbabwe’s conservation successes over the years as a country have led to this dilemma and unfortunately, the current legislation had not envisaged such challenges hence the need for legislation that addresses these issues while also ensuring that there is equitable distribution of the benefits derived.
The legislation intends to address some of the legal issues like How do we for example encourage our citizens to protect our wildlife, cessation of ignition of veld fires which destroy habitats and pollution of water bodies? How do we ensure that offenders of the wildlife laws are convicted and undergo correctional rehabilitation while deterrent sentences prevail to prevent repeat offences?
The change in society, increase in human population has seen the emergence of differentiated needs from wildlife resources, such as tourism, leather industry, transport industry, manufacturing industry, electricity generation, agriculture, which results in the environment ministry having several stakeholders with various expectations.
Minister Ndlovu said in view of the Government’s National Development Strategy 1, protected areas are a hallmark of Zimbabwe conservation efforts hence improving their status will assist the country to attain the Vision to be a Middle Income Economy by the year 2030, wildlife conservation and Tourism stability is a necessary factor to support the growth of the performance pillars of the economy that will enable us to achieve our objectives.
“In this regard, it is my expectation that we shall all participate actively to ensure that the outcomes of this exercise are a piece of progressive legislation which will contribute to a vibrant economy. Our opinions should not be drawn from silos, we are working in a dynamic environment where it is important to consider the impact of your intervention on the capacity of other stakeholders to achieve their objectives,” Minister Ndlovu said.
He drew the attention of stakeholders to aspects that should guide them in the review and deliberations as follows:
- Alignment of the Act with the Constitution.
As we all know, our Constitution came into being in 2013 whilst the Parks and Wildlife Act was last amended in 2007. There is therefore need to ensure that this piece of legislation complies with our Constitution, especially as regards the rights of the citizens of our country and our administration of the Authority as a public body etc. And the rights of the people viz a viz wildlife protection.
- Alignment with International Conventions and Norms
Our country is a signatory to several Conventions that regulate our wildlife management like, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) Convention on Biological Diversity ( CBD) and Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) to mention but a few. There is a need to ensure that we domesticate provisions of these conventions and that we are, where possible, guided by them as we enact our laws.
- Principle of Sustainable utilization
Zimbabwe subscribes to the principle of sustainable utilization, not only of wildlife but all its natural resources. Sustainable utilization tries to balance conservation benefits with the needs and expectations of the people who live with wildlife. This approach recognizes that the future survival of wildlife depends on its relationship with local communities. Further sustainable utilization allows for wildlife conservation to contribute towards paying for itself through re-investing financial resources generated from activities such as live wildlife sales and trophy hunting and through non-consumptive utilization such as photographic safaris.
- Eradication of Poaching and other wildlife crimes
Poaching and smuggling is considered as one of the key threats facing biodiversity and sustainable utilization today. Smuggling involves transnational organized crime and has strong linkages with the trafficking of other non-wildlife products. It is estimated that resources worth between USD 48 to USD 153 billion are lost through illegally traded wildlife products including timber and fisheries globally each year. There is therefore need for us to come up with laws that help to eradicate these crimes by identifying them clearly and outing up deterrent sentences for those convicted. In the same breath there is need to empower the law enforcement hierarchy, from Rangers to the judges, to ensure that they have the capacity to deal decisively with wildlife criminals.
- Benefits for local communities (CAMPFIRE)
The Government recently approved the review of the CAMPFIRE model in use in Zimbabwe to one where the Authority gives powers to local communities directly at ward and village levels. This is meant to ensure benefits reach the people directly affected by Human-wildlife conflict and that not a lot of money is lost in translation as it moves from office to office. (This will help in reducing poaching by local communities or the harbouring of poachers by local communities). An SI will be issued soon to reflect these progressive changes.
- Human-Wildlife Conflict and Land Use Conflict
The settling of people in or near the park estate has increased human-wildlife conflict. There is a need to ensure that both humans and animals are protected by not settling people in wildlife areas and ensuring that those already in these areas are protected
- Mining in Park Areas
The Government has recently made various pronouncements on the need to put a stop to Mining in Parks areas. There is need for us to legislate for that and put measures which will ensure that the pronouncements are implemented.
- Appropriate Authority (AA)
This a sensitive area as it deals with wildlife that is occurring in non-park areas like private farms, communal areas and RDCs. The Authority has overall authority over all wildlife in the country however this needs to be exercised in harmony with the rights of these AAs. Our laws would need to clarify the Government’s policies as regards the powers of AAs.
Minister Ndlovu highlighted that the above-mentioned issues are not exhaustive but are meant to provoke vibrant discussions so that stakeholders come up with an Act that is both forward-looking and can endure the test of time.