ZIMBABWEAN ETHNIC AND LINGUISTIC MINORITIES UNDER RENEWED THREAT

(Dinde Villagers in Hwange District of Matabeleland North Province, Zimbabwe)

The Hwange Ward 13 Dinde villagers’ campaign to save their lands from the threatening venom of a Chinese mining company, and the Chiredzi’s Chilonga people’s battle from being booted off their ancestral land by the hoofs of a dairy company are clear examples that Zimbabwean ethnic and linguistic minorities’ rights are seriously under threat.

In the year 2020, the Zimbabwean government allocated a mining claims to a Chinese mining company Beifer Investments to mine, which subsequently will lead to evictions, land loss and pollution, in areas that include Dinde diptank, Deka South, ZZCC Dick Area, Ngumija, Mpongola, Kapami, Hwange industrial area, Nsongwa, Nyagara, Number One North and Simangani – mainly under Chief Nekatambe. The Tonga and Nambya cultural, ethnic and linguistic minorities are affected.

Using Statutory Instrument 188 of 2020 Communal Land (Setting Aside of Land) (Batoka Township), the government is also displacing the Nambya and Tonga ethnic minorities to pave way for the establishment of a new town.

Using Statutory Instruments 50 and 51 of 2021, over 12 500 Chilonga villagers of Shangani ethnic and linguistic minorities in Chiredzi will be evicted from their ancestral lands.

These evictions and displacements of ethnic, cultural and linguistic minorities seriously undermine the cultural, development, economic, social and civic rights of these minority groups. It also has a huge negative impact on the indigenous knowledge systems and cultural institutions of the ethnic minorities. Ethnic and linguistic minorities (including indigenous peoples) have strong attachment to their lands, which they do not only use for production purposes but also for cultural and religious importance.

(Chilonga Villagers in Chiredzi District)

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, adopted by the UN General Assembly resolution 47/135 of 18 December 1992, explains the rights of ethnic and linguistic minorities. It further elaborates on the obligations of States to ensure that ethnic and linguistic minorities enjoy their rights and freedoms fully. Article 5

Says that “national policies and programmes shall be planned and implemented with due regard for the legitimate interests of persons belonging to minorities.”

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights mandates member states to protect human rights in their jurisdictions by third parties including business enterprises. It further obligates a responsibility to business to protect and promote human rights, stating that “The responsibility to respect human rights requires that  business enterprises: (a) Avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities, and address such impacts when they occur; (b) Seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts” (Article 13).

By recognizing cultural rights and the various cultural languages in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwean Constitution recognizes the existence of ethnic and linguistic minorities in the country.

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