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The Political Economy of the Illicit Coloured Gemstone Industry in Zimbabwe 

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Much of Zimbabwe’s coloured gemstones are smuggled out of the country while most of the gemstone dealers are unlicensed. The illicit mining and trade of gemstones is attributed to corruption and poor regulation of the sector which is governed under the Precious Stones Trade Act Chapter 21:06 and Statutory Instrument 256/2019. The Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, which is mandated to regulate marketing of gemstones has been far less efficient compared to gemstone marketing systems in neighbouring countries such as Zambia. The authorities have been reluctant to close the loopholes and review the regulatory framework as the current weaknesses benefit those with access to mining and export licences who are invariably the politically connected. The dealers, that are protected by politically connected miners with licences, supply foreign buyers who come through Zambia and Mozambique. These actors form part of the international syndicates that supply gemstones to destinations in Asian countries.

Despite an endowment of highly diversified mineral resources, with high commercial profitability, the economic and social developmentin Zimbabwe is still lagging behind. Among these mineral endowments are gemstones, comprising diamonds, emeralds and ‘semi-precious’ coloured stones, all which have enormous economic potential for Zimbabwe and worth over 20 billion dollars. Mining in Zimbabwe has now become one of the largest economic activity responsible for 60% of the country’s export earnings and 16% of the national GDP.

While Zimbabwe has set a USD12 billion mining industry target by 2023, the country is grappling with corruption illicit activities and leakages of minerals, which is feeding international organised criminal syndicates. Whereas a lot of focus has been on leakages of diamonds and gold, as precious minerals, the illicit trading in and smuggling of semi-precious stones has been going unchecked. Zimbabwe is losing millions of dollars in potential revenue through well-orchestrated international trafficking syndicates smuggling these semi-precious minerals or gemstones. The policy and security loopholes that characterise the mining sector have equally affected the gemstone industry.

The Centre for Natural Resource Governance conducted a study to investigate the existence, scale and nested nature of illicit coloured gemstone dealings in Zimbabwe in order to reveal the corruption and its links to international syndicates. Information gathered through the research informed the recommendations outlined herein, that are meant to curb leakages of coloured gemstones and illicit financial flows in the gemstone industry.

The study employed a mix of self-reporting approaches of primary data collection, observation and desk review as a form of secondary data collection for purposes of understanding the context and synthesizing existing information on Zimbabwe’s coloured gemstone industry. Physical visits and observations were made to Hurungwe, Mutoko, Mudzi and Mberengwa districts, where in-depth interviews targeting miners, dealers, households and community leaders were conducted. Discussions with key informants in the law enforcement and gemstones sectors also provided explicit details of some of the activities. The Covid19 Lockdowns restricted focus group discussions and any other interactions with large groups of people during data collection.

Based on the findings the study recommended the need for government to meaningfully liberalise gemstone trade and mining to allow ownership of these mineral resources by local communities who should appreciate the benefit of marketing the stones through formal channels. Accountability of mineral resources can be improved if data on mining and export revenues is accessible by all interested individuals and institutions.

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ZIMBABWE’S DISAPPEARING GOLD: The Case of Mazowe and Penhalonga

Illicit financial flows (IFFs) in the artisanal mining sector in Zimbabwe are responsible for leakages of an estimated 3 tonnes of gold, valued at approximately USD157 million every month. The sector has now spread its tentacles from alluvial gold deposits along rivers and dry riverbeds to large scale disused mines that are now patronized by politicians and ruling party officials. 

 

This sector prominently emerged in the early 1990’s because of economic structural adjustment program (ESAP) which resulted massive retrenchment of labour by government to satisfy conditionalities imposed by IMF and World Bank. Some retrenched workers turned to artisanal gold mining. The growing number of artisanal miners, not only in Zimbabwe but the entire SADC region, culminated in the 1993 UN Interregional Seminar on the Development of Small and Medium-scale Mining in Harare which developed the Harare Guidelines on small-scale mining. However, these efforts did not yield much in Zimbabwe as political elites quickly moved to capture the sector and kept it informal intentionally for them to harvest the artisanally mined gold. This led to a “Godfather syndrome” which saw powerful individuals with political connections tightly controlling artisanal gold mining at district and provincial levels. 

 

Today, the sector is now largely characterized by lawlessness, violence and blatant disregard for human rights and reigns of terror through marauding gangs known as MaShurugwi (machete wielding gangs). 

The practice of artisanal mining is therefore illegal as it contravenes the Mines and Minerals Act [Chapter 21:05] which neither recognises nor defines an artisanal miner. Despite the illegality, in 2016 the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) announced a policy of buying gold from artisanal miners on a “no questions asked” basis. This was meant to bolster and boost gold deliveries and to expand government’s revenue basket. Nevertheless, the RBZ’s Fidelity Printers and Refineries gold buying rates remain lower than black market rates, thereby fuelling side marketing and smuggling of gold. Organised syndicates comprising a few politically connected individuals sponsor the artisanal miners, manipulate security channels, have unlimited access to cash, and carry the contrabands out of the country through official ports of exit, sometimes in connivance with officials. 

Gold dealers abuse their gold buying licences to fight for control of artisanal miners and gold millers. Through the patronage system they also access cash for their illicit business from wealthy gold barons and Fidelity Printers and Refiners (FPR), the sole gold buying and 100% state owned gold trading, refining and exporting company. In Penhalonga, there are over 5000 gold pits that are controlled by one gold dealer while thousands of gold pits in Mazowe are also controlled by a few gold dealers registered with Fidelity Printers and Refiners. The gold dealers submit less than 30% of the gold to FPR, while the rest finds its way to South Africa, United Arab Emirates and other Asian countries such as China and India. Most smugglers prefer to exit the country by road to South Africa where the gold is flown from. Sources told CNRG that some of the gold is flown out of South Africa by private planes from Lanseria Airport. 

 

Gold barons sponsor a tightly monitored patronage system that is recruiting artisanal miners through political offices. Artisanal miners earn a pittance while in return the gold baron gets lucrative rewards from the illicit trade.  Although the gold smuggling syndicates ultimately boils down to a few gold barons and kingpins, the pyramid is very wide at the base with so many runners who operate numerous ‘offices’ for gold collection at the mines and in towns closer to the mines.

 

Gold leakages are rampant at the mining, milling and transportation levels of the supply chain. While there was no evidence to suggest smuggling of gold from FRP, this institution remains responsible for creating arbitrage opportunities for the gold dealers who then choose to sell gold outside the country where there are better offers. Section 17(2) of the Gold Trade Act mandates the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, or any person authorized by him with issuance of gold buying / dealing licences. Previously the Ministry of Mines issued the licenses based on Gold Buying Regulations derived from the Gold Trade Act which states that the Minister of Mines may make regulations to further the effectiveness of the Gold Trade Act. However, in a statement issued by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on 26 May 2020, the central bank stated that "Small scale gold buying agents will have to enter into an agency agreement with FPR which contract shall clearly spell out the terms and conditions under which the agents shall operate.” The entry of small-scale gold dealers into the formal value chain has resulted in an opaque system of awarding these licenses without due process being followed and a system of patronage has arisen where only politically correct and connected individuals are awarded such licences as “fronts” for kingpins in the gold sector. Further, FPR has failed to proffer an efficient pricing mechanism to incentivize miners and maintain its regulatory role in gold trading in Zimbabwe. Read more

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 DINDE VILLAGERS SAY NO TO COAL MINING 

Dinde villagers continue to mount resistance to a proposed coal mining project in their community saying mining will disrupt their livelihood, damage their pristine environment, pollute the water, and the air and violate their cultural rights. 

The community members met with Beifa Investments management and representatives from the Environmental Management Agency during a verification meeting by EMA on Friday the 17th of June 2022 at Dinde village. The meeting was held in terms of Section 10 (5) which provides that, ‘during a prospectus and Environmental Impact Assessment report review period, the Director General shall verify whether full stakeholder participation was undertaken when the Environmental Impact Assessment report was prepared.’ 

The meeting was attended by representatives from Hwange Rural District Council, District Coordinator’s Office, Zimparks and the Agricultural Extension office. 

“We do not want mining here. While we have always objected to this project from the onset, Beifa Investments has proved us right and fortified our resolve by not honouring the promises they made during the exploration stage. The company did not honour the promises it made with regard to reclaiming the environment after exploration. They left open holes all over the village and to us, this was indicative of their disregard for our environmental laws.” 

The ESIA report produced by the consulting company, Environmental Guardians Services (Private) Limited reveals that a total of 206 million tons of coal were discovered during exploration and the mine will have a lifespan of 14 years. According to local community members, a total of 25 households are targeted for relocation. 

At the meeting, Beifa Investments sought to convince the community that coal mining in Dinde was the antidote to the socio-economic challenges faced by the community. 

“They tried to convince us that the project is good for the community and promised to provide tap water for all the households in the area. However, they withheld information that just like other communities like Arda Transau which have been provided with tape water, we will have to pay for the water. We are happy with our communal life and do not think we will afford or have the capacity to foot water bills. 

“The company also promised pastures for our livestock but again, we reminded them that our livestock has always had pastures. They are only coming to disturb and pollute the grazing lands,” said a community member who attended the meeting. 

An Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report which describes the mine as a project which “nature brings about immense benefit and development to the country” was presented to the community for verification of the submissions. 

Community members unanimously said the proposed coal mine threatens livelihoods and the environment and contributes to the climate crisis.  

“The coal mine will create health problems for us because it will damage our lands, displace us, pollute our water bodies which we depend on for domestic use and our livelihoods. Moreover, coal will lead to an increase in emissions that contribute to global climate change,” a community member told CNRG.

 

The ESIA report raises cultural and environmental concerns like the desecration of graves and pollution of Inyantue River, the air and soil. Coal seam fires which are ravaging Hwange will also start mushrooming in Dinde and surrounding areas, thereby affecting flora and fauna. The community anticipates an increase in soil erosion due to vegetation clearance and dust emissions due to the movement of haulage trucks. There are also graves within the proposed site of the mine. 

The ESIA report also revealed that the mine will lead to gaseous emissions which will contribute to global warming and climate change. 

Climate Change expert from the University of Johannesburg, Professor Patrick Bond said the acknowledgement of the coal’s contribution to climate change in the ESIA report is merely tokenistic as it does not consider the implications. 

 

He queried if the consultant is aware of the “Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (climate sanctions) which Zimbabwe's European trading partners will impose on even poor countries' exports if they are excessively CO2 intensive.” 

Prof Bond said the presentation denied community members essential information as it does not unravel the "Social Cost of Carbon" associated with coal mining, associated methane gas leaks and combustion. 

The unanimous rejection of the coal project by the Dinde community versus the optimism expressed by the coal mining company raises questions on whether the government of Zimbabwe listens to its citizens. For almost three years the community of Dinde has spoken on numerous occasions and through various channels, including petitioning parliament but Beifa Investments continues to push ahead. 

CNRG calls on the government to cancel the Dinde coal project and instead invest in sustainable eco-friendly projects that can uplift the Dinde community out of poverty without affecting their health and their ecosystems. 

CNRG Information department. 

June 18, 2022 / Simiso Mlevu

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​Hwange women arrested for demanding environmental justice

SIX Hwange women were on the 31st of May 2022 arrested at Raylton residential area in Hwange for demanding environmental justice against air pollution caused by coal shunting trucks.

The women in Hwange accused the trucks from coking companies of violating Section 73 of the Constitution by causing dust pollution at Raylton residential area. Section 73 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe states that very person has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being and prevent pollution and ecological degradation. The women went on to block Zimbabwe Zhongxin Coking Company (ZZCC) trucks that are ferrying coal from Zhong Jian Colliery. The trucks use Old Victoria Falls – Bulawayo Road, which is a narrow dirty road passing through the residential area stirring thick clouds of dust. The trucks also pose danger to children since they travel at high speeds.

Using logs, poles and stones, the women blocked the road demanding that the companies suppress the dust every day before the trucks can move. One of the drivers called the police which came in and arrested the 6 women. Despite the availability of a special designated road for trucks, the truck drivers prefer the one that passes through Raylton residential area because it is shorter. The dust is blowing into the community with some settling in people’s homes, thereby exposing them to respiratory diseases.

The 6 women who were arrested were charged with obstructing the free passage along any road in violation of Section 46, subsection 2(f) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23]. They were made to pay ZW$2000.00 fine and released.

Women in Raylton residential area highlighted that they have endured the effects of the dust for years and recently decided to engage the authorities to resolve the matter.

 

“We approached the Zimbabwe Republic Police and requested them to bar the trucks from using this road. The police told us to engage the companies.

“We went to Zhong Jian, Zimbabwe Power Company and Hwange Coal Unification Company. The companies disassociated themselves from the trucks and suggested that we stop them and ask who owns them. We did as advised but we were arrested in the process,” said one of the women who was arrested.

Raylton is a low-density residential area formerly owned by National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ). The suburb is located within the Hwange Colliery Company Limited concession. The women told CNRG that they are not able to dry their laundry outside due to the dust in that area. One of the ladies who was arrested has a child who suffers from asthma. She has resorted to sending the child to her relatives in other areas to avoid the dust.

Raylton residential suburb does not have electricity. Power was reportedly disconnected between June and October 2021 over a debt owed to the power generating company by the NRZ and since then the matter has not been resolved.

“We do not have electricity here, so we use fire for cooking, and we do so outside. The dust raised by these trucks contaminates our food,” another woman said. The women said they cannot open their windows due to the dust. The team from CNRG also had an opportunity to see these trucks passing by that road and the dust was unbearable.

Similar circumstances are also observable in many communities where mining is taking place in Zimbabwe. Mining companies externalise the environmental cost of their business activities whilst families pay for the cost of pollution caused by mining activities while the companies get profits. Families pay for mining costs by their loss of health and rights to live in a clean environment.

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 THE DARWENDALE PLATINUM PROJECT COLLAPSES 

The US$3 billion Great Dyke Investments (GDI) platinum mega project has all but collapsed. 

Touted as a game changer and an indicator of progress in attracting investors, the project collapsed in 2021 due to a plethora of problems which include corruption, mismanagement, mistrust, and poor planning. Mining operations have since stopped as the Russian investor has stopped pumping money into the project. 

The government of Zimbabwe commissioned the Darwendale platinum project in September 2014. Located on the mineral-rich Great Dyke of Zimbabwe, it the belt is one of the biggest Platinum Group Metals (PGM) deposits in the world. The project was being developed by a company called Great Dyke Investments, a joint venture between Russia’s Vi Holding and Zimbabwe’s Landela Mining Venture. A bankable feasibility study which was undertaken in 2017 by African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) showed that the project had a potential to contribute to the turnaround of Zimbabwe’s economy. The peak production of the mine was expected to be 860,000 ounces of platinum group metals a year, translating to almost US$1 billion. Read more 

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CNRG STATEMENT OF INTERNATIONAL FOREST DAY

The Centre for Natural Resource Governance joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of Forests – a day set apart to celebrate and raise awareness on the importance of all types of forests. The International Day of Forests #IFD2022 is commemorated under the theme ‘Forests and Sustainable Production and Consumption’. According to the U.N. FAO, 40.4% or about 15,624,000 ha of Zimbabwe is forested, according to FAO. Of this 5.1% ( 801,000 ) is classified as primary forest, the most biodiverse and carbon-dense form of forest. Zimbabwe has a total of 836 478 hectares of natural forest which covers about 0.8% of the total surface area of the country while 108,000 ha are planted forest. These forests provide oxygen, food, water, and shelter to animals, as well as humans. Besides providing habitats for animals and livelihoods for humans, forests also offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change.

According to the United Nations, global forests are home to about 80 per cent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, with more than 60,000 tree species. However, 10 million hectares of forests are lost each year largely due to human activity. Between 3.5 billion to 7 billion trees are cut every year according to a report published by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN). Forest sustainable management and resource use are critical to contributing to present and future generations’ prosperity and well-being. Forests are also important for poverty alleviation because they are sources of livelihood for millions of citizens across the globe. Despite these priceless environmental, economic, social, and health benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate. The global forest resource assessment of 2015 showed Zimbabwe to be among the top 10 countries with the highest deforestation rate, losing about 300 000 ha of forests per year. Between 1990 and 2015, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimated that deforestation reduced Zimbabwe’s forests by 37%. In 2019, the Timber Producers Federation found that commercial forests have shrunk from 120,000 ha to 69 000ha. The Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate reported that the country is losing 330 000 ha (about 60 million trees) a year against an annual planting rate of about 8 million trees.

Natural forests continue to dwindle in Zimbabwe because excluded local entrepreneurs and communities sharing boundaries with gazetted forests resort to poaching timber for charcoal production and backyard timber factories.  Forests are generally regarded as a common property resource and this classification bestows the responsibility of forest management on both the government and citizens. However, Zimbabwe’s Forest management laws favour profit-making at the expense of the ecological and social benefits of forests to local communities. This model has brought more poverty to local communities.

Zimbabwe’s existing forest management laws and other sectorial dynamics like demography, infrastructure, agriculture, landscape planning and general macro-economic development are not supporting efforts to curb the depreciation of forests throughout the country. The laws exclude locals in managing and owning forests and forest resources, thereby making Zimbabwe’s vast forests a non-common property resource. The Communal Lands Forest Produce Act (Chapter 19:04) limits the rights of local communities to access any forest produce for subsistence. Lack of laws and incentives for locals to steward their forests forces the locals take ‘a look and see’ approach rather than safeguarding the forests as a community treasure.

 

CNRG calls for the following:

  • Government of Zimbabwe to reform forest management laws and provide for community management of the forests.

  • Government to designate forests as common property resources and incentivise local communities living closer to gazetted forests with livelihood programs which will help to conserve plantations.

  • Civil society organisations, development partners, Forestry Commission and Environmental Management Agency (EMA) to intensify environmental education and awareness programmes on forest protection.

  • The people of Zimbabwe to practice reforestation and restore previously degraded ecosystems to provide essential habitat for threatened species.

 

March 22, 2022 / Simiso Mlevu

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#BREAKTHEBIAS: EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES TRAUMATIZING WOMEN IN ZIMBABWE

The Centre for Natural Resource Governance joins the rest of the world in celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD2022), Women’s month and participating in the #BreakTheBias campaign. CNRG pays tribute to women in resource-rich communities who endure systematic and systemic exclusion from natural resource governance by the state, patriarchy and capitalist structures. Premeditated or not, biases hinder democratic participation of women in natural resources governance.

In Zimbabwe, public policy and environmental impact assessment consultations are largely dominated by men. The sector itself remains pre-dominantly male as compared to the other industries; thus, the concerns of women are never factored in the management and governance of natural resources. The social, economic and environmental impacts of the extractive industries are often differently experienced by men and women. Women are increasingly becoming vulnerable to the negative impacts of extractive activities and less likely to have influence over how the resources are managed.

In Hwange, coal-seam underground fires have added to women, the burden of nursing injured children, some of whom have been left with permanent disabilities which affect their physical and cognitive functions. In Marange, Bikita and Lupane, women cannot freely gather firewood for domestic energy use for fear of being tortured by companies’ security guards and Forestry Commission rangers. In Mutoko, Murehwa and Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe, rural women continue to lose their land (for growing crops) to black-granite mining activities. Today, women in Dinde and Lubimbi face imminent evictions from their homes to pave way for coal mining and dam construction projects.  Mazowe, Kadoma, Kwekwe, Zvishavane and Gwanda are no longer safe places for women due to marauding Machete Gangs preying artisanal gold mining areas. The high appetite for minerals by the elites in Zimbabwe has brought deep and extensive trauma to women across Zimbabwe.

CNRG calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to uphold Section 80 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe ensuring that “every woman has full and equal dignity of the person with men, and this includes equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities.” Extractive activities should not diminish women’s access to economic and social assets.

Women are the linchpins of communities, with key functions in ensuring the health, nutrition, education and security of those around them. Investing in women and guaranteeing their participation is not only key for their own development, but also for the socio-economic development of their families and communities by and large.

Equal participation in decision making in the extractive sector is critical to addressing inequalities and ensuring that the sector is managed in the interest of all citizens. We can only sustainably manage our natural resources by recognising and promoting the participation of women in the extractive sector. Women remain the only hope for a sustainable future!

By Simiso Mlevu

Posted March 9, 2022

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CIVIL SOCIETY STATEMENT ON THE NOTICE OF CANCELLATION OF FREESTONE QUARRYING LEASE AGREEMENT FOR DANGAMVURA MOUNTAIN

Civil Society Organisations operating in Mutare welcome the notice by Freestone Mines (Pvt) Ltd to cancel the Dangamvura Mountain lease agreement. Through their legal practitioners, Mushoriwa Pasi Corporate Attorneys, Freestone Mines (Pvt) Ltd wrote to Mutare City Council notifying the local authority of their decision to cancel the lease agreement. According to a memo by Acting Mutare City Council Town Clerk Mr Chafesuka, Freestone Mines cancelled the lease agreement citing ‘resistance from different individuals and stakeholders who are totally against the project’.

 

Civil Society Organisations would like to thank Freestone Mines for listening to the concerns of the people of Mutare. The gesture has shown good corporate behaviour on the part of Freestone Mines. Democratization of natural resource governance resonates with international best practices of good corporate governance and sustainable development. The interests of the people and their community values must always be prioritized when making decisions regarding natural resource extraction. It is our hope that other extractive industries take a lesson from Freestone Mines on how to implement the concept of Free, Prior, Informed and Continuous Consent in their operations.

We call on Mutare City Council to immediately act on the notice of cancellation by Freestone Mines and take all the administrative and legal procedures to ensure the lease agreement is cancelled. We also call on the local authority to leave no stone unturned in thoroughly investigating allegations of improper behaviour by some serving and former council officials in the manner this agreement was handled.

 

This statement has been issued by the following organisations:

  1. Africa Arise

  2. BRIDGE Trust

  3. Bring Up the girl Child

  4. Buhera Residents Network Trust

  5. Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG)

  6. Centre for Research for Peace & Development in Africa

  7. Commercial Federation of Manicaland Trust (CFMT)

  8. Community Crime Monitoring Project

  9. Community Water Alliance

  10. Concerned Youth and Young Adults Trust

  11. Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

  12. Freedom for the Disabled Persons of Zimbabwe

  13. Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust

  14. Hope Community Foundation Africa

  15. Institute for Young Women Development

  16. Intergenerational Dialogue Zimbabwe

  17. Kundai Rutendo Trust. ( Nyanga )

  18. Mhakwe Heritage Trust

  19. Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Association (MURRA)

  20. Padare

  21. Peace Building and Capacity Development Trust

  22. Platform for Development Initiative

  23. Platform for Youth and Community Development

  24. Tariro Foundation Trust

  25. Masvingo Residents Forum

  26. Mutare Informal Traders Association (MITA)

  27. The Eastern Caucas (Teca)

  28. United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust (UMRRT)

  29. Women’s coalition of Zimbabwe

  30. Women Network for Environment and Climate Change ( Chimanimani)

  31. Youth Agrarian Society

  32. Zimunya Young People’s Network Trust

  33. Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Workers Union.

  34. Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD)

  35. Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU)

  36. Zivai Community Empowerment Trust

  37. Zimbabwe Youth Biodiversity Network

By Simiso Mlevu

Posted February 25, 2022

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CIVIL SOCIETY 2ND STATEMENT ON PROPOSAL FOR QUARRYING ACTIVITIES AT THE SACRED DANGAMVURA MOUNTAIN

We, the civil society and residents’ groups operating in Mutare, hereby restate our position regarding
the intention by Freestone Quarrying Company to carry out quarrying activities at Dangamvura
Mountain. We take note of a recent meeting held at a town hall in Mutare where Freestone Mining,
acting in cahoots with some officials at Mutare City Council, renewed their advances at Dangamvura
Mountain.

We reiterate that no mining or quarrying should take place at Dangamvura Mountain or anywhere
within the surveyed limits of the City of Mutare. A resolution was made by the residents of Mutare at
a public meeting held at Skyview Conference Centre on 27 January 2022. At that meeting, the Mayor
of Mutare, Councillor Tandi, who has reportedly been recalled, presented his case for the quarrying
project but ALL residents present, unanimously demanded that the Freestone deal be cancelled. In his
remarks as he responded to the unanimous rejection of the quarrying project by the residents,
Councillor Tandi told acceded and indicated that the decision might be rescinded. The people of
Mutare left the meeting hoping the next big announcement to come from Mutare City Council is
the cancellation of the Freestone Mining deal.

We note with deep concern the renewed efforts to fast track a consultative meeting that was never
publicly announced. Mutare City Council posts updates and announcements on various social media
platforms but failed to notify stakeholders about this consultative meeting. Many stakeholders only
heard about the meeting after it had already been conducted. We find it unreasonable for elected officials to go against the wishes of those who endured long and sometimes frustrating voting processes to elect them. We feel betrayed but more emboldened to defend our God-given flora/fauna.

Our collective values and interests as residents of Mutare must be respected. Any further advances
by Freestone Quarrying at the Dangamvura Mountain will be viewed by the residents of Mutare as an
act of provocation and bullying. Dangamvura Mountain is sacred and situated at an ecologically
sensitive site whose desecration will have far-reaching environmental and social consequences to the
local people. As residents of Mutare, we expect Mutare City Council to protect our heritage sites and
preserve them from ecological harm. There is no amount of dangled money that can justify
the desecration of Dangamvura Mountain.

 

As Mutare residents, we, therefore:
• We call upon the Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs, Hon. Nokuthula
Matsikenyere to attend to the concerns of Mutare residents and stop the advances of
Freestone Quarrying at Dangamvura Mountain.
• We call upon the Mutare City Council, Environmental Management Agency and Provincial
Mining Director to work together in reversing this deal and ensure the sanctity of Dangamvura
Mountain is preserved.
• We also call upon the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) to take advantage of the
the current consultative process by the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality
Industry on the amendment Bill to the EMA Act to propose a raft of measures that will ensure
environmental impact assessments are not cosmetic and fraudulent, but indeed informed by
the concerns of the people and environmental experts.
• At a secondary level, we welcome any investments, including Chinese, so long they prime local
knowledge, views, interests and concerns. We sincerely ask the Government to offer them
another non-controversial site for their operations, far away from our cities.

 

Below are the organizations that endorse this statement:
1. Africa Arise
2. BRIDGE Trust
3. Bring Up the girl Child
4. Buhera Residents Network Trust
5. Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG)
6. Centre for Research for Peace & Development in Africa
7. Centre for Civil Society Zimbabwe
8. Commercial Federation of Manicaland Trust (CFMT)
9. Community Crime Monitoring Project
10. Community Water Alliance
11. Concerned Youth and Young Adults Trust
12. Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
13. Freedom for the Disabled Persons of Zimbabwe
14. Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust
15. Hope Community Foundation Africa
16. Intergenerational Dialogue Zimbabwe
17. Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD)
18. Kundai Rutendo Trust. ( Nyanga )
19. Masvingo Residents Forum
20. Mhakwe Heritage Foundation Trust
21. Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Association (MURRA)
22. Mutare Informal Traders Association (MITA)
23. Padare
24. Peace Building and Capacity Development Trust
25. Platform for Development Initiative
26. Platform for Youth and Community Development (PYCD)
27. Tariro Foundation Trust
28. The Eastern Caucas (Teca)
29. United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust (UMRRT)
30. Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe
31. Women Network for Environment and Climate Change ( Chimanimani)
32. Young Entrepreneurs Trust Zimbabwe (YETZ)
33. Youth Environmental Management and Protection Trust
34. Zimunya Young People’s Network Trust
35. Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Workers Union.
36. Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD)
37. Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU)
38. Zivai Community Empowerment Trust

By Simiso Mlevu

Posted February 15,

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CIVIL SOCIETY STATEMENT ON CHINESE INVESTMENTS IN ZIMBABWE: COMMUNITIES’ SENTIMENTS SHOULD BE RESPECTED

We, the Zimbabwe Civil Society groups, united in our common objective of defending our communities and national heritage against investment projects that disempower and impoverish our people, seek to register our deep concern with the behaviour of Chinese business operations in Zimbabwe. Our joint statement is not meant to defame China or trigger xenophobic resentment towards Chinese nationals in Zimbabwe. On the contrary, we seek fair and mutually beneficial relations between the two countries. We have however noted with deep concern the threats of displacements and mining projects in ecologically sensitive places around the country without any due regard for the concerns of the local people.

Zimbabwe is a country endowed with vast natural resources in the minerals, flora and fauna categories. These resources have the potential to reduce poverty, improve human security and help achieve President Mnangagwa’s target of an upper-middle-income economy by 2030 if managed properly.

Sadly, the abundance of natural resources has become the major cause for poverty, inequality, human rights abuses, environmental crimes and transnational organized crime that are prejudicing the country of billions of dollars annually and this has been going on for decades.

Regarding the growing resentment towards Chinese investments in Zimbabwe, it is important to highlight that for the past 15 or so years, China has been the dominant player in Zimbabwe’s minerals sector, which saw Chinese small scale and large-scale miners getting deep into rural communities to start mining operations.

Some of these mining operations have left deep scars in the affected communities. For instance, in Marange, Anjin operated between 2011 and 2016 and was accused by the then Finance Minister of not paying anything to treasury despite the company boasting of being the largest diamond mine in the world by volume of production. The company made several promises to the families it displaced to Arda Transau and all the promises were broken. Many former workers were arbitrarily dismissed and are still owed to this day.

The Marange community recently (Nov. 2021) held a protest against Anjin resulting in 29 of them, including the Headman being arrested. In Mutare, there was a recent outcry after a Chinese company, Freestone Mines, started ground preparation for quarrying at Dangamvura mountain without an environmental impact assessment. The Ministry of Mines, Mutare City Council and Freestone itself all confirmed that an environmental impact assessment was a prerequisite requirement but had not been carried out. The local traditional leadership was not consulted either. Dangamvura Mountain is an ecologically sensitive site that is situated in Mutare’s green zone and very close to educational institutions and residential areas.

There are many cases across the country where the Chinese investors have been in a standoff with local communities. The cases include the desecration of shrines and graves in Mudzi black granite mines and Dinde coal explorations in Hwange.

Local communities have come to realise (without any external influence) the losses they are incurring at the hands of the Chinese companies operating in their localities. It is important to note that Zimbabweans are so learned to be able to distinguish exploitative, destructive development from progressive development without having to be influenced by anyone. 

The primary objective of attracting investors to Zimbabwe is to ensure the Zimbabwean people benefit from their natural resource endowment. True investors leave communities in a better state than they found them in. They build infrastructure which the community will continue to use even long after the investors have left.

We appreciate the positive developments done by other mining companies in Zimbabwe whose investments have been behind the establishment of towns like Bindura, Hwange, Shurugwi and Zvishavane. There are companies like Zimplats which have massively invested in educational, health and road infrastructure for the host communities. They have built standard residential areas which offer comfortable housing for their staff and families. We are yet to see such investments coming from investors from China, leaving us to question who exactly is benefiting from the Chinese investments. 

We expect the Zimbabwe government and the media to engage China from the vantage point of advancing Zimbabwe’s national interest and promoting and protecting the dignity of the Zimbabwean people against corporate injustice and human rights abuses. 

We call on the Government of Zimbabwe to openly engage affected communities through public hearings to understand the sentiments of the citizens regarding human rights, environmental and social impacts of Chinese investments in those communities. It is essential to listen to the real people in the affected communities.

The Chinese Ambassador should find time to tour the Chinese operations to observe the working conditions of the employees. The Chinese investors in Zimbabwe should be accountable to local communities and open to public scrutiny, starting with their contracts, their taxes and beneficial ownership.

Law enforcement, EMA, rural district councils and Chiefs should conduct their mandate of protecting natural resources and local people without intimidation or fear of victimisation by those siding with the investors.

We are proud Zimbabweans, masters of our own destiny. We neither pander to the West nor to the East. We place it on China that how would they react if an African start blasting the Great wall, without a license, and uses Sino-Afro ties as defence?

If China respects and loves Africa as it purports, then the primary sign is to place ordinary citizens at the centre of development.

 

 ORGANIZATIONS THAT ENDORSE THE STATEMENT

  1. Bocha Diamond Community Trust

  2. Centre for Natural Resource Governance

  3. Community Media and Local Development Initiative

  4. Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

  5. Green Governance Africa Trust

  6. Godlwayo Community Development Trust

  7. Gweru East Ratepayers Union for Development

  8. Manica Youth Assembly

  9. Masvingo Centre for Research and Development

  10. Masvingo Residents Trust

  11. Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance

  12. Mission To Live Trust

  13. Mutasa Youth Forum

  14. Midlands Natural Resources Agenda

  15. Mutare Informal Traders Association

  16. Mutoko Shine Faith-Based Trust

  17. Peacebuilding and Capacity Development Foundation

  18. The Eastern Caucus (TECa) Manica

  19. Shangano Arts Trust

  20. United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Assocition

  21. Young Entrepreneurs Trust Zimbabwe

  22. Zivai Community Empowerment Trust (ZiCET)

  23. Zimbabwe Diamonds and Allied Workers Union

  24. Zimbabwe Democracy Institute

  25. Zimbabwe Organisation of Youths in Politics

  26. Zimbabwe Peace Project

  27. Commercial Federation of Manicaland Trust

By Simiso Mlevu

Posted January 20, 2022 

EFFECTS OF COAL SEAM FIRES AND OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS ON CHILDREN IN HWANGE

Research has revealed significant evidence of the deleterious contribution of coal to climate change through combustion. However, no investigations into life-changing disasters suffered by people in coal mining areas due to underground coal fires have been done. Raging underground coal fires in and around Hwange town are endangering humans, leaving some with near-death experiences and permanent disabilities. This report focuses on the adverse effects of underground coal seam fires and other environmental hazards on children in Hwange. Reference is also made to fire victims outside the children’s category. Some of the victims who are now adults were injured whilst young and had their future ruined by the permanent injuries, lengthy periods spent in hospitals and unending excruciating pain that has become a permanent experience in their lives, largely due to inadequate therapy they received. The children who fall victim to the coal seam fires suffer a range of physical and psychological effects which include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

Download the report here.

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TWO MORE LIVES CLAIMED AT COAL DUMPSITES IN HWANGE

CNRG has learned of the death of two men in Hwange on the 27th of September after a mining dumpsite collapsed on them while they were reclaiming coal waste for brick making. The dumpsite is in an area locally known as M.Block located in Hwange Colliery Company Limited concession. The site was formerly mined by Hwange Colliery Company Limited where it had an underground mine. Driven by unemployment and grinding poverty, local residents go to restricted areas with the intention to take coke for resale on the black market or to fetch scrap metal. In this case, the two men, who are reportedly from Empumalanga, had gone to fetch coal waste for brick moulding.

The dumpsites are mine tunnels that were long deserted by the colliery company and the structures of the tunnels have weakened over time and can easily collapse. This incident is one of many incidences which have claimed people’s lives at coal dumpsites, demonstrating how people are desperately risking their lives in order to eke a living. There have been reports of people dying of suffocation after the dumpsite tunnel collapsed while several others have been reported injured in different instances. Earlier this year in May, a woman suffocated to death in a collapsed tunnel and in 2020 two women were shot by stray bullets during a raid by the police as they used live ammunition to disperse people who were gathering coke.

The local people believe that more could be done to properly dispose of the waste by mining companies instead of creating a death trap for the despairing locals who need to earn a living at any cost. Furthermore, mining companies around Hwange have not done enough to assist the local people including women and youth who could benefit from corporate social responsibility initiatives. Many people especially women are surviving on retrieving old metals from dumpsites and selling them at truck stops where they are bought and transported to Harare by haulage trucks. Other women are into quarry stone making whereby they gather rocks and crush them into quarry stones using hammers. These projects are dangerous and also illegal but people are risking their lives to earn a living and support their families.

Coke vending is also becoming an increasing concern in Hwange as more people including women are now resorting to it as a way to earn a living. Coke is used as a fuel and a reducing agent in melting iron ore. When coke is consumed it generates intense heat but little smoke, making it ideal for smelting iron and steel. Reports from the local people claim that a 50kg bag of coke is sold for between US$3 and US$5 depending on the quality. According to Hwange residents, dangerous economic activities have attracted many people recently because of high levels of unemployment especially at a time where the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated economic challenges. Local people allege that the coal mines especially the Chinese owned ones have done nothing to improve the livelihood of local people. Those employed earn a pittance.

By Simiso Mlevu

Posted October 4, 2021

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ZIMBABWE, A SMUGGLING ROUTE FOR ABALONE

INTRODUCTION

An Abalone (Haliotis midae) smuggling syndicate is using Zimbabwe as a transit route for the valuable marine snails from South Africa to Asia and other African countries. Abalone is a family of reef-dwelling marine snails which are a lucrative export commercial fishery[1] and can sell between USD700 and USD2000 per kilogram[2]. This paper exposes the underhand dealings on Abalone and how Zimbabwe is a central route for smuggling.

 

ABALONE SMUGGLING

Recently, on two separate occasions, over 400kg of Abalone were intercepted at Beitbridge Border post and at Robert Mugabe International Airport. The cargo intercepted at RG International Airport was destined for China while the one intercepted at Beitbridge port was destined for Zambia. In both instances, the dried Abalone was seized by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) under the Customs and Excise Act. Frank Matavise and Rockdont-Yang Kasese were arrested at Beitbridge Border post and their South African registered truck impounded. They were taken to court and granted bail by a Beitbridge magistrate.

Information gathered by Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) reveals that the duo declared the Abalone as noodles in their papers which were submitted to ZIMRA. They however, failed to produce export permits issued by South African authorities, leading to their arrest. There are also revelations that one of the accused had an expired passport but was still granted bail. According to state papers, the two are facing charges of smuggling and possession of fake documents purportedly coming from the neighbouring South Africa enroute to Zambia.

The owners of the cargo that was confiscated at Beitbridge border post approached the High Court, and a ruling by Justice Webster Chinamora made on the 7th of July ordered ZIMRA to release the smuggled goods to the accused. The High Court also ordered ZIMRA to escort the truck to Chirundu. The High Court ruling raises suspicion that this could be a well-oiled syndicate involving various arms of the state and agencies of the government. According to papers seen by CNRG, armed with a court ruling, on 8 July, Samkange Hungwe attorneys wrote to ZIMRA demanding release of the cargo.

Trade in Abalone is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). As the smuggling scandal unraveled, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority through their CITES office reportedly checked with their counterparts in South Africa to verify the source and the intended destination in Zambia but could not get confirmation of permits, suggesting that the fish was illicitly exported.

In June, more than 400kg of Abalone were intercepted at Robert Mugabe International Airport aboard an Emirates plane destined for Dubai. Although Zimbabwe does not have this sea shellfish, the discovery of Abalone shows the seriousness of smuggling of wildlife products globally and exposes the country as a possibly willing transit route.

CNRG Director, Farai Maguwu said Zimbabwe needs to play its part in curbing wildlife trafficking by plugging porosity at the ports of entry and exit.

“Zimbabwe is increasingly becoming a transit route for wildlife and wildlife products traffickers. These are taking advantage of lax security at the ports of entry and exit. There is therefore a need to strengthen the capacity of immigration officials and security agencies to better appreciate how these crimes compromise biodiversity.

There is also a need to deal with corruption in the judiciary, ZIMRA, immigration and law enforcement agencies,” said Maguwu.

Although not on the Red List, the South African Abalone is facing threat of extinction[3]. An estimated 40,000 tons of Abalone have been harvested from South African waters since 2001, a figure which is 10 times the legal quota set by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to prevent complete extinction within about a decade[4].

Illicit trade in wildlife and wildlife products is a growing problem the world over. In most cases, it involves well-organized syndicates and transnational networks. According to the Global Initiative report on The Underworld of Abalone, an illicit supply chain connecting marginalized South African coastal communities with wealthy Chinese consumers has all but depleted South Africa’s stock of prized Abalone.[5] Illicit trade in Abalone is among the world’s stranger black-market industries, stretching from the shores of South Africa to China’s luxury seafood market, and facilitated by drug barons, corrupt officials and neighbouring African states.[6]

Since 2000, according to a report by Traffic, poaching syndicates have smuggled more than 96 million Abalone to Hong Kong – the epicenter of the trade. This equates to nearly 15,000 of the shellfish illegally harvested each day.

CNRG calls on:

  • The Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ)  and its neighbouring countries to commit resources for the creation of a Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Network of wildlife smuggling at all ports of entry/exit and furnish the regional network with dedicated resources to curb the smuggling of endangered wildlife.

  • The Anti-Corruption Commission to look into the rising cases of smuggling of wildlife and wildlife products, targeting the Judiciary, ZIMRA, and Zimparks.

  •  Law enforcement agencies to meaningfully participate in intelligence gathering, border control, policing, monitoring and identifying of the smuggling syndicates of wildlife and wildlife products. 

  • The GoZ to impose stiffer penalties on perpetrators of wildlife and marine life traffickers. The punitive measures would also act as a deterrent measure to would be criminals.

 

[1] https://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Documents/recreational_fishing/fact_sheets/fact_sheet_abalone.pdf

[2] http://www.fishtech.com/speech-2000.html

[3] https://seafoodtradeadvisory.com/wild-abalone-is-endangered/

[4] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/wildlife-watch-abalone-poaching-south-africa

[5] https://globalinitiative.net/analysis/abalone-poaching/

[6] https://globalinitiative.net/analysis/abalone-poaching/

By Simiso Mlevu

Posted August 19, 2021

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CLIMATE CHANGE AND CORRUPTION WRIT LARGE ON THE COVEN ENERGY BEIRA OIL PIPELINE

Zimbabwe has awarded a US$1.3 billion tender to a newly-formed opaque British registered company, Coven Energy, for the construction of a second oil pipeline from Mozambican city of Beira to Zimbabwe’s capital Harare. Announcing the deal, the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa said the project will create employment opportunities and generate foreign currency for the country. The Minister also noted that the pipeline will also help reduce vehicular congestion and smuggling of petroleum products.

This project comes at a time when the country is failing to fully utilise the existing oil pipeline from Beira to Msasa in Harare in order to curb the challenges the Minister highlighted. This intention to make Harare the regional fuel hub for other landlocked countries in the Southern African Development Community will come with environmental, economic and social cost for Zimbabwe.

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Huge projects like this one require large tracts of land and this will result in displacements of people along the route of the pipeline. The project also places Harare as the regional hub for dirty energy and is contrary to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s promise to transform Zimbabwe into a Green Economy by 2030.[1] The country is also witnessing massive coal exploration projects, mostly by China, in Hwange district. This is against the backdrop of devastating impacts of floods, cyclones, droughts and increasing manifestations of extreme weather that are leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. A recently released United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the state of global climate science warns that climate change’s disastrous consequences will lead to the destruction of natural habitats if the world does not drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions in the next 20 years. By positioning itself as a regional hub for dirty energy, Zimbabwe is also announcing itself as the future regional epicentre for greenhouse gas emissions.

Zimbabwe ratified the Paris Global Climate Agreement (17 August 2017) as a demonstration of its commitment to deal with climate change. Under the agreement, Zimbabwe committed to reducing its per capita energy emissions by 33% by 2030. The country has a Climate Change Response Strategy which promotes decarbonisation of all economic activities. The National Renewable Energy Policy supports the harnessing of the country’s untapped renewable energy sources. SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy- ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) and SDG 13 (Climate action to combat climate and its impacts) in the context of energy provisions under a changing climate are at the centre of the country’s vision 2030 agenda. Against these progressive policy documents, it is surprising to witness plans for massive infrastructure construction for dirty energy.

The Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) believes the same amount of money to be invested in a pipeline can still be invested in renewable energy infrastructure with more sustainable, environmentally friendly and economically inclusive outcomes considering that continuous reliance on fossils has been linked to flooding and drought and other catastrophic events by the IPCC August 2021 report. But, even before the IPCC report, the world has experienced devastating natural disasters like cyclones, wildfires, landslides, floods and volcanic eruptions this year already evidence that it’s no longer business as usual. Investing such an amount into solar and wind energy projects and also manufacturing of lithium batteries for electrical vehicles whose demand is on the rise could bring a lot of profits for Zimbabwe in the long run.

The latest deal also raises serious transparency and accountability issues. The deal financing strategies have not been made public and this might have a burden on the taxpayer. What has been mentioned is that the Government of Zimbabwe is going into a 50:50 partnership with Coven Energy that will last for 30 years. Major contractual details have not been made public. The company awarded the deal, Coven Energy Ltd, was only registered in August 2020 in Britain and its South African subsidiary was registered in April 2021. The company has no proven track record of implementing such projects. Its capacity has never been tested anywhere. Equally concerning is the absence of an open tender process to select the contractor. Unclear procurement issues have been leading to massive capital flight in Zimbabwe in the past.

There are also serious questions on whether Zimbabwe needs a second Beira – Harare pipeline given that the existing pipeline is reportedly being underutilized by 40%.[2] The Mozambican government even advised their Zimbabwean counterpart to upgrade the existing pipeline as opposed to constructing a new one.[3]

 

CNRG, therefore, calls on the Zimbabwe government to:

  • Implement the country’s progressive Agenda 2030 as outlined by His Excellency, President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

  • Such megadeals should be tabled before parliament for debate before the Presidents signs.

  • Halt the proposal for a second oil pipeline linking Beira and Harare and prioritise the use of the existing one so that it can operate to full capacity.

  • Invest the same amount into building infrastructure for renewable energy.

  • Pursue a democratic and transparent process on decisions that involve state companies such as the National Oil Infrastructure Company of Zimbabwe (NOIC).

  • Follow the public tender process

 

[1] Economy to go green by 2030. The Sunday Mail – https://www.sundaymail.co.zw/economy-to-go-green-by-2030

[2] Majoni, T (2020) Zimbabwe: Vultures Looking for a Meal in the Oil https://allafrica.com/stories/202010190231.html

[3] Mhlanga, B (2020) Zim losing US$400m to oil pipeline cartels https://www.theindependent.co.zw/2020/02/20/zim-losing- us400m-to-oil-pipeline-cartels/

By Simiso Mlevu

Posted August 16, 2021

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FEAR GRIPS MOTOKO VILLAGERS AS THEY FACE POSSIBLE EVICTION TO PAVE WAY FOR A CHINESE MINER

Introduction

The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development has been parcelling out mining and exploration special grants to politically connected local and foreign syndicates disguised as ‘investors’. Mines and Mining Development Minister Chitando claims the intention is to achieve the hyped 12-billion-dollar mining economy unveiled in 2019. This ambitious drive is at the detriment of communities that are now flooded by fortune hunters armed with special grants. This has also seen special mining grants being awarded in conservancies at the expense of the tourism sector[1].  Land conflicts are emerging nationwide as communities face uncertain future due to the prospects of mining activities. Some sections of the Mutoko community, which boast of large quantities of black granite stone, now face the same challenge. 

Chingamuka, Pasirai, Tome and Karimazondo villages in Nyamukapa, Ward 11 in Mutoko are living in fear of being evicted from their ancestral land after a Chinese company called Shanghai Haoying Mining Investments P/L descended their areas. Shanghai Haoying Mining Investments P/L officials have been moving around these communities with two officers from Primechart Environmental (Pvt) Ltd, a local environmental consultant group. The Centre for Natural Resource Governance has established that the officials entered Mutoko without the knowledge of the District Leadership namely the District Development Coordinator, the Rural District Council and the Traditional Leadership. The company told the villagers to prepare for relocation to pave way for an underground granite mining project. Company officials are said to have produced a prospecting license which they claimed grants them permission to relocate people from that land, estimated to measure 178 hectares.

The community approached Headman Nyamukapa to register their displeasure on this issue.  CNRG has also engaged individuals from the affected villages and they expressed the following concerns.

Loss of livelihood and lack of compensation.

Community members revealed that they rely on the land for agriculture, livestock grazing and water. Land plays an important role as it provides medicinal herbs, wood for fuel and building materials. Mutoko villagers also rely heavily on horticulture due to the availability of many aquifers that supply water throughout the year. Displacement will therefore result in loss of livelihoods and food insecurity. 

Historically, most cases of development-induced relocations in Zimbabwe have failed to adequately provide the basic needs of affected families.  The experiences of Marange families, who were displaced from their community and dumped at Arda Transau between 2009 and 2015, and over 3000 families of Tokwe-Mukosi who were relocated to Chingwizi are testimony of how relocation exercises in Zimbabwe have failed to uphold the rights of the affected communities.

Loss of Identity and Culture

For many communities, especially indigenous peoples like Mutoko villagers, their identity is rooted in their history and time-honoured cultural practices. They are held together by their traditional leadership structures. They have cultural places handed down to them by their ancestors which they hold sacred. Relocation disrupts community structures and traditions, as mining decimates sacred and cultural sites. These intangibles are nonpareil. Community members who spoke to CNRG noted that the Mutoko is home to sacred areas such as “Madzimbahwe” that are used for cultural rituals for the Buja people. The “Madzimbahwe” cannot be relocated as their significance is tied to the land where they exist. Therefore, tampering with these sites is tantamount to disrespecting traditional and cultural values, as well as the identity of a people.

Environmental and Social Impacts

Relocation of locals from their communal land will exacerbate existing inequalities. The granite mining project will likely affect community groups that are already marginalized, with less power to defend their rights. Forced relocations will have disproportionate impacts on rural women and other vulnerable people in the community such as the elderly.

Furthermore, such large-scale land acquisitions that displace communities for mining purposes will require large volumes of water and likely result in environmental degradation such as deforestation. Those that do not relocate and will be living close to the project will have to bear this burden alone, even long after the project has ended. In contrast, the people of Mutoko have been typically good environmental stewards of their land for decades.  The coming in of this mining project will exacerbate irreversible harm to the fauna and flora of Mutoko ecosystem being caused by black granite companies.

A history of looting

Black granite mining in Mutoko dates back to 1972. However, the Mutoko community has nothing to show for the 49 years of continuous extraction of the stone, also known as black diamond. Black granite mining has been politicized and patronized by politicians who facilitate the plunder in exchange for kickbacks. No efforts have been made at ensuring value addition and beneficiation at Mutoko Centre.  Such a move would ensure retention of value in Mutoko and the creation of jobs for the locals as well as the development of downstream industries.

Conclusion

The Zimbabwean Constitution has clear national objectives that guide the State and all institutions to protect citizens, observe the principle of good governance and preserve the cultural values of all Zimbabweans. CNRG calls on the GoZ to take note of Chapter 4 of the constitution (Declaration of Rights) which include but is not limited to the right to life, human dignity, clean environment, food and water, property, freedom from arbitrary eviction, whenever making mining contract decisions.

The absence of a clear resettlement policy that favors the expectations of displaced people has exposed communities to arbitrary evictions without an agreement on compensation.

 

CNRG thus make the following calls:

  • Minister Chitando must not be allowed to continue issuing special grants that lead to disturbance of communities without first engaging the people to be affected and working out plans to mitigate the effects of the proposed projects.

  • The GoZ should meaningfully engage local communities before awarding extractive contracts to the investors. This will give the citizens the opportunity to give or withhold their consent in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

  • Shanghai Haoying Investments P/L should also fully adhere to Chinese Guidelines on Environmental Protection in Investment and Cooperation Overseas (Guideline on Environmental Protection) which compels Chinese foreign investors to respect the values of the hosting communities.

  • Civil society should stand in support of the Mutoko people who have started to show courage in exercising their constitutional right to defend their land rights.

 

[1] https://allafrica.com/stories/202106280908.html

By Simiso Mlevu

Posted August 12, 2021

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IN INDEPENDENT ZIMBABWE, ZIMBABWEANS ARE LIVING ON THE EDGE DUE TO EXTRACTIVISM

The Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) joins the nation in commemorating the heroic sacrifices made by the Zimbabwean people – both the liberation fighters and the civilians – in liberating the country from colonial rule. We cherish the umbilical cord that united our people for a common cause and vision for a free, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe. The fish and water philosophy ensured our gallant fighters worked hand in glove with civilians in both rural and urban areas, especially during the penultimate phase of the liberation struggle. The land question was the main grievance that torched both the 1st and 2nd  Chimurenga.

CNRG is however concerned about a new form of colonialism that is growing louder and increasing in visibility with each passing day. It is called extractivism. Unlike British colonialism which was imposed on us without our consent, the new form of colonialism is engineered by the Zimbabwean government in the name of ‘investments’. Throughout the country, Zimbabweans are living on the edge as hundreds of special grants are issued to so-called investors, predominantly from China, to explore for minerals and ultimately displace our people from their ancestral homes. This is a stark contrast to what the fallen and living heroes and heroines sacrificed for. The future of many Zimbabweans is precariously uncertain. Even the dead are not spared as evidenced by drilling in cemeteries and reburials. The deals made are a closely guarded secret.

Instead of advancing economic development and equality for Zimbabweans, our liberators have become morphed into a bourgeoisie class themselves. True to Paulo Freire’s submission that ‘for the oppressed, to be is to be like the oppressor’, our liberators removed the combat fatigues and morphed into suit clad   oppressor regime. They maintained the laws like the Mines and Minerals Act and the Communal Lands Act which continue to render Zimbabweans landless in their own country. As we commemorate this year’s Heroes Day, these laws threaten the customary rights of the already marginalized Nambya and Shangani communities of Dinde in Hwange, Chilonga in Chiredzi, and Chipinge, just to mention a few, as destructive development projects are forced on their land without free, prior and informed consent.

Parts of the Marange community have been declared protected areas – a euphemism for taking away their civic liberties to secure diamond fields that continue to be plundered since government took over in November 2008.  More than 1300 families were forcibly evicted from Marange without compensation and dumped at Arda Transau which is more than 80km away. Diamonds worth hundreds of millions of dollars continue to be looted from Marange annually.   CNRG is not opposed to investments. However, we believe Zimbabweans must not be treated as squatters on their land for which thousands of our gallant forebearers died liberating.

We believe genuine investors ought to obtain a social license from locals and the extractive engagements should improve the quality of life of host communities. There ought to be a master plan of how to plough back extractive profits in communities that bear the brunt of environmental, economic and social costs of these extractive projects. In fact, in our humble opinion, no contract should be signed without a comprehensive master plan of how a proposed project is going to contribute to the socio-economic development of host communities and the country at large.

The objective of liberating Zimbabwe was not merely to have a black President and black Cabinet Ministers who enjoy life for and on behalf of the masses. The hope was for democratically elected leaders to create opportunities for disadvantaged black masses and create a multiracial society where all Zimbabweans, irrespective of race, gender, creed, tribe or age group, enjoy the wealth of the nation together. However, on the  contrary, Zimbabwe is witnessing the emergence of cartels and organized criminal groups that seem to enjoy State protection on the economic, social and political fronts at the expense of the country. The growing inequality gap between the ruling elites and the masses is unsustainable.

The 2021 Heroes Day commemoration beckons us to reflect as a nation on the goals of the liberation struggle and work towards restoring the dignity of the Zimbabwean people. The best way to honour the selfless sacrifice of our heroes and heroines is not through speeches and lavish events, but rather to invest and distribute Zimbabwe’s natural resources in her people – including families of the departed heroes and heroines that remain stuck in squalid poverty in a land blessed with vast natural resources.  This should be done in line with the people-driven constitution that was born in 2013.

By Simiso Mlevu

Posted August 10, 2021

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STATE WITHDRAWS CHARGES AGAINST DINDE RESIDENT ASSOCIATION VICE-CHAIR

The state has today, Friday 30 July 2021, withdrawn its case against the leader of Dinde Residents Association, Never Tshuma. The reasons for withdrawal were not given. Never Tshuma was arrested on April 15, 2021 for allegations of inciting public violence after Katambe community members stormed Beifa Investments exploration site in defence of their land rights.  Never Tshuma was facing two counts of contravening Section 187 as read with Section 36 (1) of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act Chapter 09:23.

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As part of the bail conditions, Never Tshuma was banned by the court from setting foot in his rural home until the matter has been resolved. As the Centre for Natural Resource Governance, we were convinced that not only were the charges frivolous but the bail conditions were unjust. Banishing Never Tshuma from his rural home served as a painful reminder of the repressive colonial laws inherited by independent Zimbabwe which were used to contain Zimbabweans’ resistance to colonial rule. The bail condition denied Never Tshuma access to his family and also infringed on his freedom of movement, association, conscience and also his cultural rights.

Never Tshuma’s arrest was meant to break the spirit of the Dinde Community and distract it from the real fight of asserting their rights; and demanding transparency and accountability on the Beifa Investment coal project. The withdrawal of the case gives the community an impetus to channel its energy to fight for their constitutionally guaranteed rights, especially Section 13 which calls for their involvement “in the formulation and implementation of development plans and programmes that affect them.”

The community of Dinde has been fighting to stop exploration for coal by Beifa Investments, citing breach of constitutionally guaranteed rights and cultural protocols. The community contends that should the project continue, they will be subjected to forced relocations while others will be exposed to air and water pollution as the Nyantuwe River, which provides drinking water for humans and livestock, will not be spared. They also fear the loss of livelihoods and grazing land for their livestock, destruction of cultural heritage sites such as community graveyards and ancient graves of the Nekatambe Chieftainship as well as contamination of ritual sites in that area.

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The community petitioned the Parliament of Zimbabwe in April 2021, to investigate the authenticity of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project. The community wanted the EIA certificate granted to Beifa Investment to be cancelled.

In its investigation report released on 22 July 2021, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality poked holes in the current Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27) and recommended its amendment to clearly spell out the scope and standards to be followed by registered Consultants on stakeholder consultations. The committee noted that “Communities need to be informed and adequately capacitated to be fully knowledgeable about mining ventures so that they decide from an informed point of view.” The report is yet to be debated in parliament.

CNRG condemns the granting of exploration and mining rights on land that belongs to communities and the persecution of individuals and communities defending their heritage.

By Simiso Mlevu

Posted July 30, 2021 

MORTGAGING THE FUTURE IN RETURN FOR POWER – ZIMBABWE’S NATURAL RESOURCES AND THE 2018 ELECTION

In terms of its 2013 Constitution, Zimbabwe holds local government, parliamentary and presidential elections every five years. These elections are held at the same time hence they are referred to as “harmonised elections,” a term used to describe their simultaneous nature. Holding of these elections demands a lot of funds from the central government for the coordination of electoral activities which is done by the electoral management body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). The harmonised elections budget for ZEC is often estimated in the region of US$200m-300m.

The financial pressure of elections is not only on ZEC but is also felt by the participating political parties as institutions, and individual candidates because of the First-Past-the- Post (FPTP) electoral system that is used in the country. While ZEC gets most of its funding from international development partners, political parties have to source their own funding to supplement what they get from the treasury.

 

Find here a research report exploring the linkages between Natural Resources and financing of electoral activities in Zimbabwe. 

Get the CNRG publication here
 

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