By Daniel Chigundu
ENVIRONMENTAL Management Agency (EMA) has called for the establishment of an environmental court to help prosecute offenders of environmental related crimes in the country.
Most companies, local authorities and individuals are disregarding environmental laws owing to lack of exemplary prosecutions while most offenders are not even punished painting a picture to say EMA is not effective enough in the discharge of its statutory mandate.
However, addressing Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum (ZPJF) at a workshop organised by the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA) Phanuel Mangisi from EMA said some of the sentences from the courts are not stiff enough.
“I talked about procedure for prosecution it currently defines the maximum level of fines which is level 14, so when you issue a fine to a certain entity for violating environmental laws you can only go as far as level 14 and then if that company continues you then open a docket and it becomes a court issue now.
“That is why I talked about the longer period that environmental issues are taking in terms of prosecution. I have also talked about the judgments that we have received from magistrates in terms of environmental crimes, I think the highest penalty that was issued is US$700.
“You talk about Norton Town Council it has been taken to court many times, Harare City Council it has been taken to court many times and there is a point which we as EMA when we open a docket we then allow the judiciary to take its course that is why I have highlighted the issue of trying maybe to go for the environmental court,” he said.
Mangisi added that besides going through the court procedure, some of the offenders especially Harare and Norton Councils have also been subjected to board hearings but again the maximum level of fines the board is allowed to issue is not punitive enough.
EMA also revealed that it is working with ZELA in lobbying for the amendment of the country’s environmental legislations to be in sync with the current situation on the ground.
Meanwhile, EMA has called on all the stakeholders to play their part in safeguarding the environment, adding that while they have the mandate but the environment is everyone’s responsibility.
“In terms of environmental issues yes EMA has got the mandate but it’s not EMA alone, that’s why I also talked about the police, the local authorities, judiciary services and even the communities are supposed to be involved.
“So we are saying the environment is everybody’s responsibility and we need to play our part, we talk about litter that is happening and generated in Harare and is thrown everywhere, even the citizens themselves they can take the initiative wherever they are travelling to avoid littering and where there are bins to place litter in the bins.
“They can also play their part, which means yes whilst the enforcement agencies are there, communities need to also play their part,” said EMA