Compiled by Cosmas Sunguro
Chiadzwa community resembles ” a case of poverty amidst plenty.” Vested with rich diamond fields, mining operations taking place as companies being awarded mining rights yet the people of Chiadzwa remain poor, even getting poorer than they were before the commercial mining activities commenced.
In light of these plethora of problems arising in the mining sector, Publish What You Pay Zimbabwe (PWYP) organised a zoom meeting focusing on community benefit sharing to assess the challenges and possible solutions to community benefit sharing. From the meeting most mining communities expressed the same views as those of Chiadzwa. There is no meaningful benefit or development that Zimbabwean communities are realising from mining activities in their respective areas. They are at the receiving end of negative impacts of mining such as land degradation, water pollution, air pollution, noise pollution, sexual harassment and exploitation just to mention a few. Social service delivery and local economic development remains a shattered dream.
This is parallel to the constitutional and legal instruments that provide for revenue sharing and community benefit sharing of proceeds from mining companies. Section 13 (4) of the Zimbabwean constitution provides that, “the state must ensure local communities benefit from the resources in their areas”. It seems this provision is just there for argument sake because there is no meaningful action plan to implement it or ensure it becomes a reality. There is no legal instrument compelling the mining companies to ensure they share the proceeds with the communities. Corporate social responsibility is a notion that companies chose to implement or not and many times the projects they do are not necessarily beneficial to the local communities as per the community expectations. Hence, the reported projects are rarely witnessed by local community members. A few individuals benefitting are usually cited as the community which is not true.
How community can benefit from its resources.
Benefit sharing is a notion found in the Convention on Biological diversity, article 15 sets out rules which govern access and benefit sharing. Under these rules’ governments have two key responsibilities. Firsly, to put in place systems that facilitate access to genetic resources for environmentally sound purposes. Secondly, to ensure that the benefits resulting from their use are shared fairly and equitably between users and providers. These principles of commutative justice or justice in exchange developed by Aristotle, refers to fair compensation and focuses on the equivalence of a transaction between two parties. , benefit sharing is described as “the action of giving a portion of advantages or profits derived from the use of genetic or natural resources or traditional knowledge to resource providers in order to achieve justice in exchange”
In order to achieve this in Marange diamonds sector, and Mutare rural district council. The most important thing is to have a legal framework that is effective, in the sense that it should have sanctions and clear procedures of enforcement and implementation. Furthermore, the presentation by Mutare Rural District Council official, collaborates the assessment that mining activities are not benefitting the communities as they are supposed to do. There is no meaningful revenue coming from them as they pay their levies late while the money has lost its value because of inflation. Policy inconsistencies also plays a crucial role as rules changes from time to time. Of late it seems the Community share ownership trusts are slowly losing value of which they are the hope for potential community benefit sharing.
The Constitution rightly provides for community benefit sharing but without legislation to enforce it the goal will never be realized. Therefore, the following has to be done for the idea of community benefit sharing to be realised.
1. Transparency and accountability as a Precursor to Benefit Sharing.
There should be an open book policy when it comes to negotiation of contracts, contractual obligations and clear outlines of how the nation at large and communities specifically are going to benefit from the mining operations of a company. For example, people of Marange are crying and complaining because of Anjin company that is back in Chiadzwa. It is known for violations of human rights, ill- treatment of local employees, non-remittance of levies but no has provided answers on why it is back even against these ills. Such lack of information violates the right to access to information and against the state or its entities obligation for transparency as provided in Section 194 (1) (h) and S195 (1) of the Constitution. Furthermore, S298 (1) provides for financial transparency of public institutions yet ZCDC only produced audited financial reports this year since its inception in 2016 and after a lot of lobbying and engagements from Civil society organizations. Therefore, there should be commitment to transparency and accountability by government and its agents if communities are to benefit from mining operations within their areas.
2. Meaningful Engagement.
Although some government departments and agents are sometimes reluctant to answer to community voices and questions, it is only continuous engagement with them that guarantee communities benefit. For Chiadzwa community to benefit, the government needs to commit itself to this cause. Absence of Transparency and accountability to its citizens, means community benefit will remain a pipe dream. The same goes for its reluctance to ratify the Extractive industry Transparency Initiative (EITI).Thus, the government should commit itself in terms of transparency, accountability and public financial management in terms of section 298 to curb corruption, illicit financial flows and mineral leakages to ensure community benefit sharing.
3. Embracing Devolution.
Section 13 (4) compels the state to ensure local communities benefit from natural resources within their areas. Read together with section 270 (1)(a) and (e) that states, Provincial council is responsible for the social and economic development of its province, including, planning and implementing social and economic development activities of its province and monitoring and evaluating the use of resources in its province respectively This is also known as devolution. If this provision is enforced and implemented fully it can go a long way in fostering community benefit sharing, but nothing much has been realised. The royalties from mining companies are remitted to the Central fund only to be reimbursed to provincial councils in local currency and eroded by inflation such that no meaningful benefit is realised from it. The government has to decentralise the licensing of minerals claims and negotiation of some contracts to give effect to section 270 so that community benefit sharing is realised. As an organization, we still lobby for locals to be given access to those mining concessions that are not economically viable for commercial diamond mining. This will be in a form of formalizing the artisanal diamond miners. Above all the locals can still benefit from various forms of employment created. During the period of 2012 when diamond mining was at its peak the five companies directly employed above 6000 workers in total, revealing that there is great potential in this regard.
4. Community Share ownership Trust.
In Marange there is Marange-Zimunya Share Ownership Trust. Its formation created some form of community voice and a medium of community benefit sharing. The funds allocated to it gave birth to some projects. Although, the funds were hit by inflation such that the effect to change was so minimal, it remains a fact that CSOT s are the way to go for communities to benefit from the mining activities in their areas. According to a recent PWYP Zimbabwe communiqué, “there must be a new framework for empowering resource rich communities”. The legal instrument governing them should be effective while options could include “royalty revenue sharing arrangements.”
When followed holistically, the above recommendations can ensure that the communities’ benefit from mining operations in their areas with local economic development realized.