Community Legal Empowerment
Seinoli Legal Centre, Lesotho
The Seinoli Legal Centre (SLC) is the first public interest legal centre in Lesotho (Southern Africa). The SLC was founded by Protimos in 2014, in response to the increasing number of requests for help from communities who had been involuntarily resettled in the wake of a huge dam infrastructure programme (Phase One of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project). In 2017, Phase Two was launched and communities began to face the same fate of involuntary resettlement. There is no plan to ensure that sustainable futures will be organised for the thousands to be affected. A mining community also sought the protection of the law, as the community land was churned and mined for diamonds. Seinoli lawyers now act for the community in its dealings with the diamond mining company and a satisfactory interim settlement has been reached.
Land Rights, East Africa
Community land rights are a major concern in East Africa where communities frequently find themselves with no voice, no land and no compensation, for a range of reasons. Protimos is using the same community legal empowerment principles as in Lesotho, to assist an impoverished community living on the eastern coast of Tanzania. In this case we are supporting local lawyers to assert community land rights which are threatened by the illegal actions of the National Parks Authority. The community lives on an idyllic stretch of coastline, with clean water, a pristine beach and the ‘Big Five’.
San Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), South Africa
In mid-2020, Protimos plans to launch in South Africa, the first dedicated Community Intellectual Property Rights Legal Centre, drawing a range of existing and new legal strengths together in one dedicated place. This will provide the San and other indigenous groups across the continent with full access to the legal process of protecting their intellectual property rights for the years to come. Specialist senior and local lawyers will constitute a dedicated, well-appointed legal centre from which communities will be able to assert their intellectual property rights over their knowledge of plants and other biodiversity. Senior lawyers working at the Centre will provide training and legal assistance in this complex but crucial area of emerging law, in which South African statutes currently command a leading role. It is intended that the centre will add substantial legal expertise to the emerging and profound body of knowledge in this area. It will provide legal beacon for communities across the African continent. Lawyers will offer a service in which they negotiate and then implement the contractual relationships which benefit those who are recognised as owning the traditional knowledge. This knowledge is currently giving rise to vast commercial benefits from such plants as hoodia, rooibos, and sceletium.
Resource Rights, Zimbabwe
As Zimbabwe moves into a new period in its history, there is huge commercial interest in the harvesting of its rich resources, such as mining and farming. The conduct of companies, and the manner in which they discharge their corporate social responsibilities, creates direct links between affected communities and the companies themselves. As e-communications become faster and more sophisticated, poor corporate conduct is not so easily concealed, particularly where it violates the human rights which are found in the Constitution. Where international laws, such as World Bank lending principles, are enacted or reflected in domestic legislation, corporate conduct is under increasing scrutiny. Lending investment lender liability, insurance and reporting on materiality are directly affected by such emerging legal requirements as Free, Prior and Informed Consent. For companies listed on alternative investment platforms, such as AIM, adverse inferences drawn from their conduct can be fatal to their survival in the marketplace.