29 April 2021, Banjul, Republic of The Gambia
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), through the Chairperson of its Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations - Honorable Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, and the Country Rapporteur for the Republic of Zimbabwe - Honorable Commissioner Jamesina Essie L. King, has received with concern, recent reports of acts that would constitute clear violations of the human rights of the people of the Dinde Community in Hwange, Zimbabwe, as guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), including in particular, their economic, cultural and social rights, their right to free disposal of their wealth and natural resources, and their right to a satisfactory environment for development.
Reports reaching the Commission indicate that members of this community face expulsion from their ancestral home, in order to facilitate the mining activities of a Chinese investment group, Beifa Investments (Pvt) Ltd, which has been granted a mining exploration permit by the Government, to conduct exploration activities for coal in the Dinde area – a concession in respect of which the Community was not consulted and to which a large cross-party section of the Community is opposed on account of the huge loss that this causes to members of the community.
The Commission is alarmed by the serious risk that this situation poses including the loss of access to their land and the resources on which they depend for their livelihood such as cultivation for their sustenance and grazing of land for livestock, the destruction to their cultural heritage and social and cultural systems associated with shrines and ritual sites and the pollution and environmental degradation that the mining activity would cause. The Commission further understands that the mining activities have proceeded despite a petition and protests by members of the Dinde Community, to which the government had only responded by arresting and detaining the leader of the protests, and that the villagers fear that over six hundred (600) families will be displaced if the project continues despite their protests and without regard to their legitimate concerns.
The Commission has elaborated the mechanisms for upholding the rights enshrined in the African Charter in engaging in extractive industries through its State Reporting Guidelines on Articles 21 and 24 of the African Charter Relating to Extractive Industries, Human Rights and the Environment, which elaborate the principles underlying the rights guaranteed under Articles 21 and 24 of the Charter, the substantive contents of the rights, as well as the obligations arising from these rights in respect of both the State and the companies involved in extractive industries.
The Commission notes that the rights of members of indigenous communities and minorities to live on their land, and to make a living off the land is established in a number of provisions within the African Charter. Article 14 provides guarantees of the right to property which may only be limited under very limited circumstances; Article 21 provides, broadly, that natural resources must be administered ‘in the exclusive interest of the people’ and without any deprivation of the people thereby; Article 22 guarantees the right of peoples to their economic, social and cultural development, with due regard to their ‘freedom and identity’ and in the equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind; and Article 24 provides that all peoples shall have the right to a satisfactory environment for their development.
These Guidelines provide, among other things, that:
- The activities of extractive industries should not lead to making the conditions of life of people living in the territory worse off (such as through limiting access to or spoiling the land and water on which they depend for their livelihoods), but rather contribute to the improvement of their standard of life, both measured both objectively and subjectively;
- The rights under Articles 21 and 24 of the Charter as elaborated, also entail the right to justice and remediation in case of violations, such that people whose land, water or source of livelihood have been disrupted or spoiled by dispossession are entitled to measures for restoration of their property and to full, effective and adequate compensation not only for the socio-economic impacts of the interference including opportunity costs but also to adverse social impacts.
In light of all of the above the Commission calls upon the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe to
- Suspend the continuation of the mining activity on the territory of the Dinde community;
- Undertake social and human rights impact assessment and environmental impact assessment with full participation of the members of the Dinde community;
- Ensure that any resumption of mining activities in the area guarantees that the rights of members of the Dinde community including access to land and the resources on it, protection from pollution by, compensation for externalities that they bear from the mining activities and facilitates that a portion of the revenues from the mining activities are allocated for the betterment of the living standards of the members of the Dinde community including through building and enhancing infrastructure for the provision of social services to members of the community and employment opportunities; and
- Provide full, effective and adequate compensation and livelihood support for the socio-economic and social impacts that any dislocation that the mining activity may cause to any member of the community
Furthermore, recalling its Resolution 367 on the Niamey Declaration on Ensuring the Upholding of the African Charter in the Extractive Industries Sector, the Commission hereby calls upon the Republic of Zimbabwe to review its legislative framework to ensure that the right to freely dispose of natural resources is given adequate protection in line with the standards elaborated under the African Charter, the State Reporting Guidelines and Principles on Articles 21 and 24 of the Charter, and other relevant regional and international standards; and to ensure that these protections are fully implemented.
Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso
Chairperson of its Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations
Commissioner Jamesina Essie L. King
Country Rapporteur for the Republic of Zimbabwe