As we continue with our mandate of raising awareness among communities to assert and claim their environmental, economic, social and cultural rights within the natural resource and environmental sectors we decided to capture citizens’ voices through images. The month of February saw us touring resource rich communities in Zimbabwe where we captured the images that portray the grave injustices that have been brought about by mining investors. The 13th of March saw the organisation bringing together Chivi community members and local leaders for a Photo Voices Exhibition which was held at a community hall.
The pictures evidently illustrate that although Zimbabwe is endowed with vast mineral deposits, very little benefits have been realized. From the photo voices shooting it was revealed that host mining communities suffer environmental, socio-economic and cultural rights violations occasioned by state and non-state actors.
Currently, Zimbabwe’s mining sector is one of the major sectors of the economy that still has a large proportion of foreign ownership. However, while commonly presented as a sector providing development opportunities for the national government and local communities, mining has also been named ‘‘the evil sector’’ because of its projects that repeatedly trigger a cocktail of problems such as livelihood shifts, displacements from ancestral lands and insidious social, cultural, environmental, and economic changes. By its very nature, the mining industry, just like the oil and gas industries, leaves behind a ‘‘footprint’’ of environmental, social, and economic impact.
A case in point being Mutoko, Mutoko is located in the northeastern part of Zimbabwe. It lies within Mashonaland East Province and shares boundaries with Murewa, Mudzi, and Nyanga Districts. In terms of socio-economic development, Mutoko District is ranked among the ten least developed districts in Zimbabwe inspite of the proliferation of granite mining. Mutoko villagers despite living in the midst of the sought after precious granite stones which are in high demand in Europe and America are living in abject poverty. Mining in the community can be traced back to 1972 but the locals have nothing to show for it. According to the Global Press Journal, Mutoko granite was used in the construction of the $82 million Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen, Denmark, which measures 21 500m2. At least seven companies are extracting granite in the district. However, relations between some investors and the locals remain sour. The locals are blaming the companies for not protecting their social, economic and cultural rights. Sliced mountains, random cutting down of trees and water grabbing have left Mutoko district a living example of the ecological crisis bedeviling planet earth.
At least two families have lost their loved ones who fell into gullies left open by granite mining companies in the district. Granite extraction has also impacted their cultural beliefs and practices in ways that are detrimental to their well-being. In the Nyamutsahuni area, a Chinese company desecrated graves in search of the precious stone and for the locals this is unacceptable and totally against their cultural beliefs.
From the interviews conducted during the photo voices shooting, the perception amongst the locals has been the ineffectiveness of the local leadership in solving problems and controlling the actions of investors. Issues of corruption and political party allegiance also came under the spotlight. For the locals, citizen participation although legislated is not being put into consideration by the leaders. The lack of upward flows of information and citizen roles within the rest of the system gives little meaning to the notion of citizen participation in natural resource management and its governance.
Zimbabwe’s indigenous communities must fully benefit from the mineral resources. There is an emergent realization that mining could be a key instrument in establishing infrastructure for development. This is embodied in Africa’s Mining Vision (AMV) that contains important strategies for the maximization of the impact of mineral resources on growth and development. Many African countries do not have sustainable development principles in their national mining policies. Therefore, the AMV aims to achieve a “knowledge –driven African Mining sector that catalyses and contributes to the broad-based growth and development.
For the communities, policies must be suitably tailored to promote inter-generational equity in the mining sector. Without the necessary legal predicate, local communities in Zimbabwe will continue to suffer at the hands of mining companies. A mutually beneficial partnership between the state, the private sector, civil society, local communities and other stakeholders must be developed. Harnessing mineral resources for economic development and community empowerment is critical in addressing the poverty scourge and overally improving the quality of life for all Zimbabweans.
As ZELA, we are running the Responsible Investment campaign where we are calling on the Government of Zimbabwe, mining Companies and other duty bearers to ensure that mining operations are not violating the rights of local communities. To get involved in the campaign, follow the hashtag #ResponsibleInv on Facebook and Twitter. Please kindly follow the link https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/responsible-investments-campaign#.W5d and sign an online petition.