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Emerging questions from last week’s Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines’ tour of Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company

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By Nyaradzo Mutonhori

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For two days, that is, on the 13th and the 14th of January 2017, members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines toured ZCDC and the Arda Transau Relocation Area. I had the privilege to be part of this tour. Last year the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development formed the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) to efficiently control, explore and mine alluvial and kimberlite diamonds in country. The parliamentary tour captures the interest that everyone in Zimbabwe has around ZCDC not just because ZCDC is a state owned enterprise conducting diamond mining but because of the general expectation that States should “lead by example” in upholding community rights and tenets of transparency and accountability in the mining sector. For me, this visit left more questions and provided little answers to the controversy surrounding diamond mining in Zimbabwe. These are the questions that all citizens must ask and indeed all women must ask. Women particularly not because diamonds are a woman’s best friend but because women bear the brunt of the negative environmental, social and cultural implications of diamond mining and they lose the most when revenue from diamond mining is lost through leakages.

A huge question regarding the status of ZCDC emerged in this visit. At the beginning of the tour, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development gave a background on the formation of ZCDC and indicated that the ZCDC is not a ‘successor’ of the former mining companies (Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Jinan, Diamond Mining Corporation (DMC), Anjin Investments, Gye Nyame, Marange Resources, Kusena Diamonds) but represents consolidation of the diamond fields. In essence, he said what was consolidated were the diamond fields not the diamond mining companies. If this is so, does this mean one special mining grant applies across the diamond fields and if so why is the ZCDC still dividing the diamond fields by portals in accordance with former mining companies’ fields? If indeed ZCDC is not a successor of the former mining companies does it mean that ZCDC has not taken over the assets of the former diamond mining companies because if ZCDC has taken over the former diamond miners assets it is deemed to be an amalgamation/consolidation of the companies? The question of past and present assets of ZCDC therefore becomes paramount, especially for women since it can show who is liable to compensate them for loss of livestock, loss of livelihoods through loss of biodiversity, environmental rehabilitation and liabilities to relocated community members who were promised irrigation schemes and compensation in 2011. Moreover, discussions with some members of the PPC indicate the predicament that the PPC has in playing oversight role as in some instances ZCDC indicates is a private limited company which cannot be subjected to parliamentary oversight as opposed to a government parastatal.

During the tour, the Acting Chief Executive Officer of ZCDC informed the members of the PPC that ZCDC was in the process of acquiring Environmental Impact Assessment (EIAs). The law does not permit the transfer of EIA Certificates from former diamond mining companies to ZCDC without the authority of the Environmental Management Agency (EMA). What this means is that ZCDC was supposed to acquire its own individual EIAs before commencing operations. Failure to provide an EIA caused ZCDC to be issued with four orders and four tickets. When ZCDC was formed there was a general expectation that as a state-owned company it would take measures to respect and protect the rights of communities or people. It is known that the EIAs of the former diamond miners were not properly done as they did not capture essential environmental, social and cultural impacts. In any case many of the former mining companies were not complying with their stated EIA commitments. How then did ZCDC start operations without EIA certificates? What does it mean for the people’s right to a clean and safe environment if state-owned companies defy and contravene environmental laws? How effective is the EMA system of fining and giving orders to offenders?

The PPC tour revealed that only approximately 10% of the ZCDC mine workers were women. ZCDC acknowledged that this is an area which needed improvement but did not explain what it is that ZCDC is doing or would do to rectify this and identify barriers that are inhibiting women from being employed in the diamond sector. Does the ZCDC have a gender policy? Does ZCDC have specific skills transfer programs aimed at creating gender parity in its workforce? What technology is ZCDC using and are there any efforts by ZCDC to develop and adapt innovative technologies that are responsive to women’s needs?

During the tour we heard that ZCDC is acquiring vegetables and chickens (road runners) from the community as part of local content. We saw that ZCDC is hiring heavy earth moving machinery. ZCDC did not disclose whether it had bought its own machinery. ZCDC did not disclose who it is hiring the machinery from and how much it cost to hire the machinery. The secrecy shrouding former diamond miners’ operations was one of the reasons that government formed the ZCDC as a way to improve transparency in diamond mining. Undoubtedly many people, including myself expected that the ZCDC as a way of leading by example would voluntarily disclose which machinery it has bought; if there are any plans to buy any; the cost benefit analysis of hiring machinery as opposed to buying it; who it is hiring the machinery from and at what cost. Undoubtedly the local community, especially women need their capacity to be built so that women entrepreneurs can competitively supply the services and goods within the diamond value chain. Buying vegetables and road runners is a far cry from the local content aspirations contained in the Africa Mining Vision and our local Women’s Broad Based Economic Empowerment Framework. Yesterday’s Herald carried a story about Mbada Diamonds pricing scandal in which government owned 50%. Such pricing scandals and inconsistency of diamond production figures and contribution of diamond mining to national fiscus justified formation of the ZCDC. During the tour ZCDC provided a summary of production figures and carats sold. ZCDC must spearhead stakeholder interest for the resuscitation and implementation of the Zimbabwe Mining Revenue Transparency Initiative (ZMRTI) and encourage government to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

The PPC ended with a tour of Arda Transau Relocation Area. Local communities do not have strong communal title and the Mines and Minerals Act of 1961 prioritizes mining over other land uses, further weakening communities’ land rights. In December 2016 ZCDC relocated 23 families from Tinoengana Village in Chiadzwa. 3 families disputed the relocation in courts and refused to be relocated without adequate compensation see here. During the tour ZCDC revealed it had paid undisclosed disturbance allowances to 18 of these 23 families. Interaction with some members of these families indicated that no disturbance allowance had been received as yet. The following questions arise from this; What are relocated families entitled to in terms of compensation/disturbance allowances? When must the compensation be paid? What is the standard of basic amenities that are required to be established at the relocation sites? Is it not forced consent to relocation if ZCDC is mining in community in people’s fields and at their homesteads? Can ZCDC mine in people’s homesteads and fields before it relocates them? If it does, is it not supposed to give food handouts pending relocation? Is ZCDC liable for promises for construction of an irrigation scheme for Arda Transau community made by former diamond miners?

[Nyaradzo (@mukasiri) is a Legal researcher. She is interested in Gender in the Extractives Industry. She blogs at Her Lens: Gender equality, Women and Mining .. Nyaradzo work with the Zimbabwe Environmental law Association