High Court of Zimbabwe Justice Mangota on Thursday 17 December 2020 granted an order in an application filed by Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association as an Applicant for public interest purposes. The order interdicts Chitungwiza Municipality from releasing sewer into water bodies, watercourses, streams, tributaries, or any part of the environment. Further, the Municipality was compelled to, within three months of the order, repair or otherwise upgrade its water treatment plants and sewer systems to ensure proper treatment of effluent before discharge into the environment and water bodies.
The Environmental Management Agency was directed to conduct compliance assessments within three months and submit a report to the Registrar of the High Court.
ZELA, through its Litigation Unit, filed a public interest case at the High court of Zimbabwe for a structural interdict against Chitungwiza Municipality. The brief facts of the case are that from as far as 2013, Chitungwiza Municipality has been responsible for water pollution within its jurisdiction by causing the discharge of untreated sewer into the water bodies that provide drinking water to the area.
In this case ZELA sought the following remedy
● Chitungwiza Municipality be interdicted from releasing untreated sewer into the water bodies or any part of the environment.
● Chitungwiza Municipality to be ordered to upgrade and repair its water treatment plants and sewer systems to ensure proper treatment of effluent before discharge into the environment and water bodies within three months of receiving the order from the High Court of Zimbabwe.
● Environmental Management to monitor the progress and compliance and submit reports to the registrar of the High court.
This case brings relief to Chitungwiza residents through claiming their fundamental human rights which include the right to clean and potable water (Section 77 of the Constitution) and right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being (Section 73 of the Constitution). The judgement creates a critical precedence in Zimbabwe on service delivery by local authorities.
The High Court has taken a progressive approach in granting structural interdicts which ensure the progressive realisation of citizenship rights through periodic inspections and compliance reports to the Court. In this regard, the Environmental Management Agency has been ordered to, within three months of this order, conduct inspections to assess compliance with the Environmental Management Act, and having conducted such inspections, to immediately submit to the Registrar of the High Court, a report of such actions.
ZELA said the High Court order is indeed welcome.
Over the years ZELA, a public interest law organization that seeks to promote environmental justice, sustainable and equitable use of natural resources, democracy and good governance in the natural resources and environment sector has immensely contributed to the attainment of environmental justice in Zimbabwe. True to its vision and mission the organisation has improved the lives of many communities through its various projects. In pursuit of its mission, the public interest law organisation has employed several strategies such as advocacy, research, lobbying, collaborations, community work and litigation.
“The organisation will stop at nothing in promoting the realisation of environmental, socio-economic, and cultural rights. Above all, the hope is that it will increase access to justice and improve the rule of law in Zimbabwe,” ZELA said in a statement.