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Public interest litigation as an empowerment tool: The case of the Chiadzwa Community Development Trust and diamond mining in Zimbabwe

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Mining in general, and diamond mining in particular, is one of the main drivers of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Zimbabwe, and it is poised to remain so in the short to medium term. While mining is bringing ‘development’ to the country, it is also causing suffering to local communities where it is taking place.

This situation contrasts with the fact that advocates of mining investments perceive rural communities living in and around mining areas as potential beneficiaries alongside the state and the private sector.

To address these problems, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) has used public interest litigation as part of a wider strategy to empower communities affected by mining. Although the public interest case was dismissed, it has resulted in a number of positive outcomes, including communities asserting their rights and being given a voice to participate in policy and decision-making processes.

ZELA has learned that in a context like Zimbabwe where both the political and legal frameworks pose formidable challenges, public interest litigation should be used as part of a wider set of legal empowerment strategies, including legal literacy, advocacy and community mobilisation.

This case study has been produced under IIED’s Legal tools for citizen empowerment project.

This publication forms part of IIED’s work to identify pathways towards inclusive and responsible mining.

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