AFRICA MUST LIVERAGE ON ABANDANT RESOURCES FOR THE ‘THE AFRICA WE WANT’

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THE 25th May is Africa Day, an annual event to reflect and strengthen the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now African Union (AU). The day marks the unwavering quest for the unity of the continent and for the political and economic emancipation of African people. The Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) and Maluti Community Development Forum (MCDF), members of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition (KPCSC) in the Southern Africa region, join the rest of the continent in celebrating Africa Day being held under the theme, “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building Africa we Want.”

The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) is endowed with vast minerals including diamond deposits but sadly the mineral wealth has failed to translate to improved standard of living for citizens. The region lacks the will to sustainably manage diamonds and continues pandering to the whims and caprices of investors at the expense of its citizens. The decimation of mineral resources is betrayal to the beliefs and convictions of Africa’s founding fathers who fought oppression and looting of Africa’s resources.

The SADC region is lagging behind other Kimberly Process Certification Scheme participants when it comes to bringing artisanal alluvial diamonds into legitimate chain of custody. Criminalization of artisanal diamond mining compromises internal controls for KP members, yet that is a key component of KPCS minimum standards.

SADC countries have failed diamond mining-affected communities in the region with some communities such as Marange in Zimbabwe and Patising in Lesotho being exposed to human rights abuses which include physical harm and environmental pollution. Relocated families in Arda Transau (Zimbabwe), do not have access to grazing and farming land and this has negative implication on their sources of income and livelihoods. Poor management of diamond revenue and deposits is depriving the SADC region of the socio-economic progress it deserves. Economic growth in Africa’s mineral-rich countries is tripping, while inequality and economic fragility are on the rise. SADC countries continue to enter into unfair mining deals and contracts and to hand out tax incentives to mining companies that hurt them in the long term.

In Zimbabwe, criminalisation of artisanal mining is exacerbating illicit financial flows and undermining the smooth implementation of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme not only within the country but in many countries where the alluvial and artisanal diamonds acquired from Marange are received. Artisanal and alluvial diamond production is happening amid serious conflict between state security agents and mining firms on one hand and artisanal miners on the other. As a result, KP certificates still provide no guarantees that diamond purchases are conflict-free.

Patising Community in Lesotho is facing the danger of total annihilation by possible burst of the dam created by Letseng Diamond Mine operated by Gem Diamonds of British origin. The community calls upon the AU and the international community to come to its rescue and release it from the shackles of oppression due to Letseng Mine’s irresponsible operations. Precious lives cannot be lost as a result of profit and creed of multinational corporations. We call upon SADC governments to ensure implementation of the provisions of the Africa Mining Vision (AMV), to ensure fair play within the industry.

We take note of the SADC’s vision of a “Common future within a regional community that will ensure economic well-being, improvement of the standards of living and quality of life, freedom and social justice and peace and security for the people of Southern Africa”. We are however saddened that despite efforts by the KP CSC in lobbying for the expansion of the definition of conflict diamonds, the SADC countries have not shown willingness to embrace the reform agenda and thus working against their own vision.

CNRG, MCDF and ZELA are therefore calling on SADC member states who are part of KP family to reconsider their position on the scope of the definition and protect mining-affected communities who count the cost of violence, human rights violations and environmental degradation, who ordinarily should be enjoying the benefits from their mineral wealth. These are some of the important issues that need to be urgently addressed as we work in solidarity towards Africa we Want.

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