HARARE - The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) would like to applaud the President’s call for transparency and accountability in the wildlife and mining sectors.
The President made these calls on the 7th and 8th of November, 2013. Listening to the President make this call, it was as if he was singing from the Civil Society Organizations’ hymn book.
The President asked very direct and pointed questions regarding the manner in which licenses and contracts are being issued and how generated revenue is accounted for.
He called for the strengthening of systems to curb mineral leakage.
The Herald of 9th of November also weighed in with some very pertinent questions in its editorial regarding the opacity in conservancies.
Ironically, these calls for transparency and accountability by the President in the wildlife and mining sectors came at a time when ZELA in collaboration with the Parliament of Zimbabwe was hosting a two day workshop on Mining and Natural Resources Management for the Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Mines and Energy, Environment, Water and Climate and Tourism and Hospitality Industry.
Topics that were discussed during the workshop included Revenue and Contract Transparency.
The President’s call for transparency and accountability in the wildlife and mining sectors are spot on.
Zimbabwe has a significant and diverse mineral and wildlife base capable of spurring economic growth.
However, this significant and diverse mineral resource base only represents a comparative advantage.
One of the factors that have held back the country’s ability to turn this comparative advantage into competitive advantage is lack of transparency and accountability that the President so eloquently elaborated on.
The President’s call comes at a time when Zimbabwe is struggling to raise external financial support from Multilateral Financial Institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and China.
What this means is that domestic resource mobilization from Zimbabwe’s diverse and significant mineral resource base is Zimbabwe’s only hope of financing its economic development and this is why the President’ s call for transparency and accountability is so urgent and relevant.
There is no way we can have effective domestic resource mobilization without transparency and accountability.
Even the successful financing of Zimbabwe’s latest economic blue print, Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio- Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET) is largely dependent on transparency and accountability.
ZIMASSET has been described as being “crafted to achieve sustainable development and social equity anchored on indigenization, empowerment and employment creation which will be largely propelled by the judicious exploitation of the country’s abundant natural resources”.
There can be no judicious exploitation of mineral resources without transparency and accountability.
Without transparency and accountability, ZIMASSET will not be able to leverage Zimbabwe’s mineral resources, generating revenue to facilitate socio economic transformation.
On Tuesday the 12th of November 2013, Cabinet adopted the Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill, which hopefully will result in the imminent development and enactment of the Sovereign Wealth Fund Act.
As ZELA, we applaud this long overdue development, which we have advocated for.
The rationale of a Sovereign Wealth Fund is to enable a country to seek maximum value from their resources and in this case, minerals.
The Sovereign Wealth Fund idea tallies in very well with the ZIMASSET thinking of funding Zimbabwe’s economic development by mobilizing domestic resources.
Again, we argue that without transparency and accountability, the well-intended ZIMASSET and Sovereign Wealth Fund will be moribund.
Transparency and accountability provides the basis for successful domestic resources mobilization to fund ZIMASSET and the establishment and management of a Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Norway is rightly cited as the pioneer of the concept of SWF with reserves estimated at over US $ 1 trillion.
Transparency and accountability is the main reason why they have succeeded.
Civil Society Organizations working on natural resources governance issues like ZELA have been calling for transparency and accountability through a number of initiatives.
These include the Publish What You Pay Zimbabwe Chapter that was launched in 2011, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) which resulted in the then Inclusive Government adopting the Zimbabwe Mining Revenue Transparency Initiative (ZMRTI) and the Africa Mining Vision whose adoption in February 2009, the President participated in.
The vision of the Africa Mining Vision is “Transparent, equitable and optimal exploitation of mineral resources to underpin broad based sustainable growth and socio-economic development”.
The quest or thirsty for transparency and accountability is often viewed as, aimed at undermining the state.
What seems to be overlooked is the fact that transparency builds trust and confidence among the governed and those governing.
It also helps to manage expectations.
Most of the suspicion and mistrust between the state and citizens is mainly based on lack of information.
Transparency also helps in nabbing corrupt activities, which the President is on record criticizing.
Recently, ZELA participated as a panelist in a TweeT@ble (dialogue meeting on extractives) event organized by the Netherlands Embassy on “Economic Empowerment through Improved Natural Resources Management”.
The new Minister of Mines and Mining Development Honorable Walter Chidhakwa was among the panelists.
All the participants could see and feel the passion and commitment that the Minister has to ensure that Zimbabwe’s mineral resources catalyze economic development.
The Minister’s passion and commitment will not be realized in the absence of transparency and accountability.
The Achilles heel of the President’s clarion call on transparency and accountability and Minister Chidhakwa’s passion and commitment is the current legal and policy framework codified in the Mines and Minerals Act (Chapter 21:04) and the Parks and Wildlife Act(Chapter 20:04).
Transparency and accountability are very alien to these Acts.
These Acts are anchored on secrecy and opacity and these results in tenders and contracts being negotiated and known by the Minister only as the President rightly noted.
There is therefore need for the two pieces of legislation to be reformed so that they are based on transparency and accountability values and principles.
The new Constitution is very clear on the need for transparency and accountability and its time that this starts to cascade to mineral and natural resources laws and policies.
The draft Minerals Resources Policy is a good example of this cascading and hopefully the development of a new Mines and Minerals Act will be done soon and will be influenced by this progressive thinking.
The President’s call for transparency and accountability is ample evidence that these are universal values and principles.
With regards to the mining sector, its time that the Africa Mining Vision which was adopted by the African Heads of State and Government in February 2009 moves from Vision from the continental level to Realization at the national level.
The 3rd Ordinary Session of the African Union Conference on Ministers responsible for mineral resources development will be held in Maputo from the 13th-17th of December 2013 in Maputo, Mozambique.
The meeting will be held under the theme “Leveraging the Africa Mining Vision for Africa’s Renaissance towards broader ownership.
ZELA’s hope is that the Minister of Mines and Mining Development will be able to attend this meeting to learn more how the Africa Mining Vision could be used as a vehicle to help Zimbabwe unlock economic value from its mineral resource base.
The call for transparency and accountability is not and should not be viewed as the preserve of the President and Civil Society only.
The resources belong to the people and those that are managing them are only doing so on behalf of the citizens.
So as citizens, they have a right to request and receive information on how licenses are being issued, how contracts are being negotiated, the revenues being generated from the exploitation of mineral and other natural resources and how the generated revenue are used.
It is important to note that there are many factors that are holding back the ability of our mineral and natural resources to contribute effectively to economic development.
While we cannot do much about some of them since they are not within our control and sphere of influence, transparency and accountability is definitely within our grasp and as the President has shown, there is no justification whatsoever for lack of it.