(Last Updated on November 3, 2023 by ZIMDAILY EDITOR)
By Yvonne Muchaka and Lynn Menita Kondo
The unregulated and unsustainable extraction of minerals in Zimbabwe has led to numerous social, economic and environmental challenges that communities must unite to address urgently and completely, Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) Director, Farai Maguwu has said.
Illegal mining activities have become prevalent in various parts of Zimbabwe, leading to deforestation, land degradation, and the destruction of delicate ecosystems.Additionally, the exploitation of minerals has often been associated with corruption, smuggling, and revenue leakage, undermining the country’s economic stability and exacerbating social inequalities.
“Unless and Until the community arise to challenge this pillaging nothing will happen, they will continue looting”, Maguwu opined.
In a wide ranging conversation in an Accountability journalists network group, Maguwu mentioned that the nation’s management of natural resources was questionable and extractionist in nature, depriving communities of the much needed development.
“We must agree that what’s happening in these lithium producing areas like Bikita, Sabi Star in Buhera, Sandawana Mberengwa and Goromonzi is a continuation of the looting happening in Marange, its the same people or a different group but linked somehow. There is need for resistance,” Maguwu reflected.
Added to that, Maguwu states that, there is need for very strong public pressure to stop resource looting and it will not happen on its own.
“People must show complete disgust and rejection of the practice. Citizens must relate resource looting to the decaying hospitals without drugs, ambulances, beds and connect resource looting to shameful roads, lack of water or electricity,”Maguwu said.
Asked about the operations of the Chinese and their treatment of local labour, Maguwu pointed at the government as an enabler of the rights violations in the mining sector.
“I don’t blame the Chinese per se. What they are doing is very wrong but have you ever asked why government is silent over these abuses and allegations of looting. It means someone up there is a silent business partner of the Chinese. Having spent many years on this issue, I can tell you that if you want to know who is a business partner of these rights violators, try to organize a community demonstration to challenge the looting. Police hairari (literary translated, doesn’t sleep) the night before. Who deploys the Police to fight citizens demanding accountability? Who do the Chinese run to when locals are demanding economic justice. If we can answer those questions we know the Chinese are a small part of the problem’, said Maguwu
Maguwu highlighted the need for a bottom up approach in addressing injustices being experienced by locals in the mining sector, sparking national debate to resolve this scourge.
“The solution in my view is the bottom up approach, a national movement saying enough to the looting. This noise at grassroots level will ignite other events, even up to parliament and government itself. This noise at grassroots level will ignite other events, even up to parliament and government itself. They say people get the government they deserve. If we just watch them loot they will continue looting. In 2018 they organized a demonstration right there inside the protected zone in Marange and after the protest three things happened which include, President Mnangagwa gave USD5 million to the Zimunya Marange CSOT (part of the funds were looted by the appointees / trustees), ZCDC tendered for a voluntary human rights audit and government started the bi-annual diamond security indaba held in Mutare twice every year,” Maguwu said.
He mentioned that as a centre, the CNRG managed to conduct civic education to a community of Sese in Masvingo when Murowa Diamonds wanted to displace the community for diamond exploration in the area. However, the community had to be equipped with information on land rights, that they have a constitutional right to say no to any mining activities they disagreed with.
“We told them if the government want to send the army to shoot, they must present their bodies as living sacrifices instead of being displaced against their will”, he said.
Since 2021, the community of Sese has successfully challenged the Rio Zim’s Marowa Diamonds, and earlier this year, the Environmental Management Agency, EMA, has encouraged stakeholder consultation and get local buy in before they can conduct their exploration. The community however, has indicated that they do not trust the company.
Maguwu went on to explain the murkiness around diamond mining in Marange highlighting that artisanal miners discovered the diamonds in 2006. He mentioned that by 2008, more than 35 000 diggers were there and government dispatched the army in October 2008, massacred the artisanal miners ‘to restore sanity’, after which the who is who in government and the military went on to form fly by night companies to start joint ventures with foreign criminals.
“One such a joint venture was Mbada Diamonds – Mugabe’s former helicopter pilot engaged a South Africa scrap metal company call New Reclamation which in turn when to form a shelf company in Mauritius named Grandwell Holdings which then formed the JV with Marange Resources to form Mbada. In addition they subcontracted several South Africa registered companies which were paid tens of millions of dollars without doing anything.
“It was just a channel to get the money out of Zimbabwe. Another one, Canadile, was a joint venture between Core Minerals and ZMDC no history of diamond mining whatsoever. Mining affairs Board recommended against the deal but it went ahead, thanks to Obert Mpofu’ Maguwu said.
“Anjin Investments joint venture between Zimbabwe Defense Industries and China’s Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group, Former Finance Minister Biti said that company, though it produced the highest number of carats, never remitted anything to treasury. The CIO also formed its own company, Kusena Diamonds. The Police also submitted own application. Marange is the epitome of the resource Curse in Zimbabwe. Parliament was denied access to Marange for 2 years from 2010 to 2011 whilst foreigners were given free passage. Six years later, Mugabe says of a possible $15 billion only $2 billion had been realized,” he added.
Encouraging responsible mining practices through proper licensing, monitoring, and rehabilitation measures can mitigate the environmental impact of mining activities while maximizing benefits for local communities and the national economy.