The High Court of Zimbabwe on 11 June 2020 commenced hearings on a public interest case concerning Zimbabwe’s capture and trade in wild elephants. The litigation was initiated by Advocates4Earth in 2019 (then known as the People and Earth Solidarity Law Network). The main respondent in the case (Case No. HC 4289/19) is the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) and the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry. Advocates4Earth made the application in 2019 seeking to stop unclear capture and exports of wild animals from Zimbabwe and also seeking access to information on such dealings in the public interest.
On Thursday, High Court Judge Justice Benjamin Chikowero heard lengthy preliminary arguments from attorneys for both sides. The submissions focused on technical issues regarding the application. The court posed questions to both sides’ attorneys. Judgement was reserved judgement on the technical issues before deciding on whether or not to proceed to substantive issues. We now await further communication from the court. We will update accordingly as this is a matter pending before a superior court.
Advocates4Earth was represented by its legal team led by Mr Freeman Chingoma from Jiti Law Chambers assisted by Mr Lenin Chisaira from Advocates4Earth. ZimParks was represented by Mr Harrison Nkomo from Mhishi Nkomo Legal Practitioners.
The court case is part of Advocates4Earth’s ongoing campaign against wildlife capture and trade in Zimbabwe and Africa. The campaign included a parliamentary petition and submissions to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment on Tourism held on 2nd March 2020. The campaign also involved lobbying and participation by two Advocates4Earth attorneys during the 18th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES CoP 18 ) held from 17-28 August 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Section 73 (b)(i) and (ii) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013:
‘Every person has the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent …. ecological degradation (and) promote conservation’
Section 62 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013:
‘Every Zimbabwean citizen or permanent resident, including juristic persons and the Zimbabwean media, has the right of access to any information held by the State or by any institution or agency of government at every level, in so far as the information is required in the interests of public accountability.’