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.