Movement building in communities affected by extractive industries in Zimbabwe

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The benefits of Mining in Zimbabwe are contested. There is the positive narrative by politicians who associate mining with national development. However, the narrative from the mining affected communities is gloomy – land dispossessions, cultural violations, violation of workers’ rights, direct and structural violence against communities. The environment is not spared either. Each year several new mining projects are unveiled and the lives of the communities deteriorate as they lose their land and livelihoods to mining. The new government is declaring ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ and much of this business is in the mining sector. The Africa Mining Vision is also encouraging extractivism as a model for quick economic growth for the continent. However, conditions in most mineral endowed countries in Africa tell a different story. Poverty, pollution, violence and land dispossessions are the key characteristics of mining.

Non Violent Resistance to Destructive Mining

The goal of Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) is to defend the rights of communities affected by the extractive sector. CNRG has started a process of building a grassroots movement of peaceful non-violent resistance to destructive mining. This campaign began in Marange diamond fields where more than 200 artisanal miners were gunned down by the Zimbabwe National Army in 2008. Since 2014 CNRG has been holding an annual commemoration to remember those who died during the military operation. The number of participants has been growing from 192 in 2014 to over 3000 in 2017. Alarmed by this growing movement, the government of Zimbabwe sent immigration officials, Police and secret state agents to disrupt the gathering on 10 November 2017. 21 foreign delegates, 2 local drivers and CNRG Director Farai Maguwu were arrested and spent a night in detention. The arrests only helped to embolden the community. A petition, signed by 3000 community members demanding an end to violence and illegal exploitation of their diamonds was handed over to Parliament in February 2018.

In Hwange colliery in the Southern part of Zimbabwe, CNRG has been working on building a movement of women against destructive mining. One of the major problems faced by the Hwange community is non-payment of salaries by the Colliery. In December CNRG held a meeting with the women where it was resolved that the women would hold a protest demanding that their husbands be paid their dues. The strike started on January 29 and ended in May when the Hwange Colliery Company Limited agreed to pay the workers their outstanding salaries as well as to offer the protesting women training in self help projects.

CNRG is keen to ensure these movements continue to organize and counter the power of corporations. We also seek to ensure the movements grow into one large national movement demanding an overhaul of the mining sector to ensure the rights and needs of communities are at the centre of mining.

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