Richard Ncube


Richard Ncube, Bertha Justice Fellow at ZELA, worked with the Gwanda community to help ensure their rights were respected and protected against dangerous mining practices.

Bertha Justice Fellow Richard Ncube, a public interest and environmental justice lawyer based in Harare, Zimbabwe, is driven by his passion to support Zimbabwean communities in their fight for environmental justice. In 2019, Richard joined the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) as a Bertha Justice Fellow, where he leads the ZELA litigation unit and provides support to litigation efforts across the organization.

Access to environmental justice and protection is essential to communities affected by mining. Despite being codified in the Zimbabwean constitution, communities’ environmental rights are violated by extractive companies, individuals and state institutions who value maximizing profits at the expense of entrenched rights. These circumstances have brought public interest lawyers like Richard to the forefront of environmental justice in Zimbabwe.

In 2019, Richard represented the Gwanda community in the case of Sithini Ndlove vs Imani Mine. Located near a residential area in Ultra in Gwanda, Zimbabwe, Imani mining activities had led to pollution, land degradation, open shafts and severe damage to houses due to blasting. The case was instituted out of the realization that this community has rights in the constitution that should be respected and protected. Richard showed that the Imani company had been mining without an environmental impact assessment (EIA), endangering the lives of community members through irresponsible mining practices.

The court ordered the Imani Mine to fence off any open shafts and immediately cease all mining activities as they did not have an EIA. Additionally, the judgment passed down by the court forced the Imani Mine to comply with orders given by the Environmental Management Agency, which it had previously ignored. Since this ruling, the Imani Mine has complied by closing shafts, and it is now completing the EIA process.

This case illustrates the importance of community voices and the court as the custodian of fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution of Zimbabwe. Richard and ZELA’s work through litigation has resulted in empowered communities who can assert their rights without fear.


Photo 1: Richard Ncube (center) and a colleague from ZELA (left) with a community monitor (right). Image: Simbarashe

Author: Cinderella Alhomsi, Bertha Justice Initiative Fellowship Coordinator

Editorial Consultant: Karen Frances Eng

This story was originally published in the Bertha Fellows book and some of the information in this story may have changed since it was first published.