November 24, 2020

ADVOCATES4EARTH

Solidarity for Environmental Justice

Zimbabwe Elephants Trade Case Update: Victory on the Preliminary Points

High Court of Zimbabwe judge, Justice Benjamin Chikowero on 1 July 2020 released a judgement on the preliminary points raised in the case between Advocates4Earth (People and Earth Solidarity Law Network) and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks). The High Court dismissed the preliminary points raised by ZimParks’ lawyer Mr Harrison Nkomo, with costs being in the main cause.

High Court of Zimbabwe judge, Justice Benjamin Chikowero on 1 July 2020 released a judgement on the preliminary points raised in the case between Advocates4Earth (People and Earth Solidarity Law Network) and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks). The High Court dismissed the preliminary points raised by ZimParks’ lawyer Mr Harrison Nkomo, with costs being in the main cause.

Background

On 11 June 2020 , the High Court of Zimbabwe commenced hearings in the case between Advocates4Earth (then People and Earth Solidarity Law Network) and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks). The case arose out of  Advpcates4earth’s concerns that the capture, export and trade of wild elephants in Zimbabwe was being done in ways that potentially violate environmental and access to information rights in Zimbabwe.

High Court of Zimbabwe

Zimparks lawyer, Mr Harrison Nkomo of Mhishi Nkomo Legal Practitioners made an application for the case to be dismissed on a preliminary point that as a trust, we had no locus standi to bring the case. The court decided to hear arguments on the preliminary point first as this would have the effect of disposing of the matter. In other words, had Zimparks lawyers succeeded on that point, the entire case would have been dismissed without proceeding to a hearing on the merits.

Our lawyers, led by Mr Freeman Chingoma of Jiti Law Chambers argued that in terms of the High Court Rules and common law, as a trust which exists within the laws of Zimbabwe and as a non-profit organisation formed specifically to represent and advocate for environmental and wildlife justice in the interest of the general public, Advocates4Earth (People and Earth Solidarity Law Network)  has the right to bring an action on behalf of its trustees and beneficiaries.

lawyers
Lawyers Mr Freeman Chingoma of Jiti Law Chambers (left) and Mr Lenin Chisaira (right) of Advocates4Earth at the High Court of Zimbabwe on 11 June 2020

On 1 July 2020, Justice Chikowero held that: ‘For purposes of litigating in the High Court, an association include a trust. Although it is not a legal person, a trust is allowed to sue and be sued in its own name…Order 2A of the High Court Rules, 1971 is still law. In the circumstances, the point in limine cannot succeed. In the result, the preliminary point is dismissed with costs being on the main cause”

What this entails is that the case will now proceed to the merits. Our legal team will, therefore, be ensuring that the case is set down for hearing on the merits. Commenting on the judgement, Advocates4Earth Director, Mr Lenin Chisaira said, ‘ This is a significant victory in a battle within a larger war for wildlife justice and access to environmental information in Zimbabwe. We are grateful for the resilience of our legal team led by Mr Freeman Chingoma and Mr Webster Jiti of Jiti Law Chambers. It would have been a sad situation to have such a significant wildlife and environmental justice case dismissed based on a mere technicality’

You can download the full judgment below

Issued by Advocates4Earth (formerly, People and Earth Solidarity Law Network).

Email: advocates4earth.trust@gmail.com; campaigns@advocates4earth.org