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Constitutional case for mining sector transparency reforms: is EITI only route for Zimbabwe?

By Mukasiri Sibanda

Government, since 2011, repeatedly made commitments to implement the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) or resuscitate its home-grown version, the Zimbabwe Mining Revenue Transparency Initiative (ZMRTI). EITI is regarded as a global best practice that promotes open and accountable governance of oil, gas and mineral sectors.

Intentions by government to either implement EITI or revive ZMRTI have not resulted in any tangible transparency reforms in the mining sector. A temperature check is needed. Should transparency reforms be stalled because of fears that openness will stifle government’s sanction bursting measures? This blog makes a constitutional case for transparency reforms in the mining sector.

Our Constitution, the supreme law of the land has provisions that promote an open and accountable governance of the mining sector in Zimbabwe. Good governance, especially transparency and accountability are part of the founding values of the Constitution. Through Section 13(4) on National Development, the State is compelled to put mechanism to ensure communities benefit from resources in their localities. A requirement which jives well with the values of EITI.

Public access to information is provided under Section 62 of the Constitution. Communities need access to mining contracts which reveal the terms and conditions under which the resources are going to be exploited for their benefit. In fact, the Constitution, under Section 315 (2) (c) requires and Act of Parliament to guide negotiation and performance of mining agreements.

If this requirement is complied with, the mystery around mining mega deals signed will be removed, laying the foundation for public trust and confidence in government. A key legitimacy issue for government outside the contestation around elections. The missing $15 billion from Marange is a ghost that government must exorcise to convince citizens of its willingness to fight corruption and to ensure minerals are exploited for the benefit of citizens.

Access to information is not only limited to mining contracts, but on what is paid by mining companies to and received by government. And how mining revenue earned by government is allocated, spent and accounted for, not only financially wise, but the development impact. All this is provided for in the Constitution – Section 298, Principles of Public Financial Management.

Section 194 of the Constitution speaks on Basic Value and Principles governing public administration emphasises that transparency must be fostered by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information. Something which state-owned enterprises involved in the mining sector like the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), and Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) have failed to do.

And further emphasis is on establishment of transparent, open and competitive procurement systems. Without discounting the requirement for government to join EITI, it is important to understand that reforms that promote open and accountable management of our minerals are a constitutional issue. Alignment of the laws with the Constitution is something that government, Parliament, civil society and citizens must be seized with as a matter of priority.

The Constitution we have was enacted in 2013, six years have passed, and it is disturbing that requisite transparency reforms in the mining sector have remained elusive. Notably, several developed countries that are resource rich are not part of EITI. Probably for Zimbabwe, going beyond constitutional reforms on transparency in the mining sector is important because under the “Zimbabwe is open for business mantra” it is certainly catchy to investors that the country’s reform process is attuned to global best practice – EITI.

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