Will community share ownerships deliver?

HARARE - The overall objective of any form of economic development is to improve the material and social well-being of society.

What most people fail to understand is the fact that society consists of people with divergent views on how things should be organised.

Those who at independence felt strongly that an egalitarian society can be achieved have been proved dead wrong.

Any programme that is formulated and implemented “from above” to address the supposed needs of the poor should be viewed with guarded cynicism.

One brilliant Zimbabwean scholar once dismissed the very notion of ending poverty by throwing the question “If poverty ends, what will happen to mercy?

Those who were pessimistic that all those millions dollar cheques that were being paraded in communities as part of the community share ownership would not suffice seem to be exonerated by events in Manicaland Province.

Most poor people who were optimistic they would benefit from natural resources in their vicinity now know that is nothing but a fable. All the huge expectations that diamond revenues will revolutionalise the lives of the hard-pressed people in the harsh ecological areas of Marange, Chiadzwa and Zimunya areas are fading everyday.

The launching of the Marange-Zimunya community ownership scheme brought hope among the people. It appeared once and for all that all those who had not managed to build decent houses in their lifetime finally got them thanks to diamond companies.

Even those media personnel who went on guided tours seem to confirm the long held thesis that when journalists are given special treatment they lose the plot.

 This was confirmed by the apparent warning given to all mining companies that they should own up on their pledges and address the needs of the community. One might have thought that the Zanu PF political leadership in Manicaland was happy with the conduct of diamond companies.

To everybody’s horror, all is not well as provincial governor Christopher Mushowe expressed deep disappointment over the failure by the companies to do any meaningful development almost a year after President Robert Mugabe launched the community ownership trust.

His sentiments cannot be confined to Manicaland only as many of these community trusts are yet to yield any meaningful benefit to the concerned communities since their launch.

Many people are still wondering how exactly the proceeds will benefit them whether directly or indirectly as these schemes are based on the largely discredited and fictitious “trickle down” approach.

Mushowe was quoted in the press expressing deep resentment on the failure of the scheme to address what he called “a sea of poverty” around the “rich islands” resembled by the mining areas.

“We had hoped the communities would be benefiting but alas, we are getting into July and nothing, absolutely nothing has taken place. As with the case of all such companies exploiting resources everywhere, there is need for them to make good of their promises as failure would prove to be disastrous.”

“If you build a small island of richness in the middle of a sea of poverty, the sea will drown the island”, he said.

On a sad note, the provincial import of these schemes could be the foundation of the scourge of xenophobia and provincialism which is not good for national development.

His statement that “The people of Manicaland continue to watch other provinces benefiting from their resources......the resources here in Manicaland are benefiting people in other provinces” fails to take into account that all resources found in Zimbabwe are national resources which should benefit all areas irrespective of where they originate from although there are some benefits which the local community can demand exclusively.

What he makes very clear is the fact that these numerous community share ownership schemes might not be the best way to empower people as most of such activities are likely to be hijacked by carpetbaggers. - Staff Writer

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