We are being neglected: Mining communities

HARARE - Mining communities around Zimbabwe are crying foul over lack of development in their areas despite rich pickings by mining companies.

Shamiso Mtisi, the programmes officer with the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela), yesterday told delegates attending a two-day alternative mining indaba in Harare that the country’s poor communities must benefit from resources in their areas.

“The extractive sector still remains one of the most important sources of a nation’s income if properly governed,” Mtisi said.

“There is no doubt that mining has the potential to contribute to a nation’s economic development through creation of jobs, attracting foreign direct investment, infrastructure development and many other social services.”

Mtisi noted that despite this potential to contribute to economic development, the mining sector in Zimbabwe was causing untold suffering to the local communities and employees of mining companies where mining activities are taking place.

“Government and mining companies have been internalising the profits and socialising the costs. The internalisation of profits by mining companies through the use of cheap labour has seen the mining companies making huge profits at the expense of communities,” he said.

Zimbabwe has a rich and diverse mineral resource base that should be an important contributor to sustainable growth and development. The sector rebounded dramatically from the hyperinflation economic crisis and, with dollarisation, the value of mineral production increased six-fold to about $3 billion in 2011.

However, despite this natural resource wealth, an estimated 72 percent of Zimbabweans live under the poverty datum line of $507,96 according to Zimstat.

Mtisi argued that the socialising of costs was evident through forced evictions and relocations of communities from their traditional homelands without free and prior informed consent to pave way for mining activities.

Although Zimbabwe has tried to empower mining communities through the establishment of community share ownership trusts, the exercise has left a lot to desire.

Analysts, however, noted that the whole process of community ownership has become an arena of contestation, conflict and politicking as it has enriched the local political elites at the expense of deserving communities.

Peter Sigauke, chief executive of Mutoko District Council, said the Mashonaland East province has not accrued any benefits from mining activities in the area.

“We are appealing to government to help communities in Mutoko to benefit from the lucrative granite mining in our area,” he said.

Farai Maguwu, director of Centre for Natural Resources Governance which carries out extensive mining research, noted that most of the rural communities where mining is prevalent was heavily dependent on subsistence agriculture.

“The effects of mining have negatively impacted on rural agricultural production and in turn, food security. Communities have felt the impacts of mining especially on women and children yet they have not benefited adequately from the mining activities through infrastructural development, employment and better public service delivery,” he said.

Maguwu said it was imperative for civic organisations and other stakeholders in the economy to join forces and fight for legislative reforms so that Zimbabwean laws can address current problems posed by the existing Acts.

Chief Mapanzure — Collin Chimhofu — the chairperson of the Zvishavane Community Share Ownership Trust, said chiefs must be appointed to foreign companies’ boards to help ensure transparency in the running of the mining companies.

“Our concern is that government must also unveil on time our community share ownership trust share certificates so that we can participate fully in the running of companies and projects in our area,” he said.

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