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Creating harmony in extractive mining industries

By Fadzaishe Chikomba

Mineral resource governance is fast becoming a topical issue in Zimbabwe, this has been caused by the realization that the communities are not benefiting from their mineral resources. There is also not much in site to give hope that there’s going to be an improvement as far as resources beneficiation is concerned.

The people in Marange for instance were so excited when the news of diamond discovery was announced around 2006. Unfortunately, it has been a case of so long a wait, thus frustration is slowly creeping into communities especially the youth. As youth we face different challenges some include environmental,economic, employment challenges to mention but a few. When the news about the diamond discovery was announced we were so excited but we were unaware of the impacts that it might have on the community and environment.

Moreover, mining industries have done more harm than good to the community and general populace. All diamond mining operations in Marange which were being undertaken by seven diamond companies resulted in land degradation. This completely restricted the ability of people to use the land while posing as a major health hazard. For example, in 2015 a ten year old child from the Nyangani family was trapped and died in an open pool abandoned by Anjin mining Company. These open pools also end up becoming breeding areas for mosquitoes hence increasing the incidence of malaria.

Mining in communities destroyed much of the infrastructure we needed for our livelihoods and domestic use.Some of the infrastructure destroyed included wells ,livestock dip tanks,roads ,bridges to mention but a few. There is a case of a narrow bridge across Odzi bridge that was built in the 1970s, but it is being destroyed by heavy trucks and equipment.

Due to this challenge we are being deprived from access to information  as stipulated in the Zimbabwean constitution section 62 (1) ” Every Zimbabwean citizen or permanent resident, including juristic persons and the Zimbabwe media, has the right of access to any information held by the state or by any institution of government at every level……..” Mining companies are not producing their production figures and audited accounts. Recruitment figures and related information is not readily available to ordinary community members. As youths we are interested in knowing how recruitment is being conducted hence it becomes a concern to us because where there is no transparency with the likelihood of corruption likely to increase under such circumstances.

Mining also results in displacement of people. According to a Marange and Arda Transau Community Protocol ,large areas of land were taken up by diamond mining companies resulting in many of us ,living around the diamond mining areas ,losing our homes and land used for farming. The government of Zimbabwe (GoZ)and diamond mining companies relocated families in Marange from 2009 to 2017. The land for the relocated communities is/was inadequate to sustain the farming and livestock production livelihoods of relocated families.

In addition, children suffer a larger burden of the impacts from diamond mining. The demolishing of schools meant that some of our children have to travel long distances to attend school or they drop out of school altogether. Some schools lost parts of their land used for sporting, gardening and recreation activities. This resulted in the school pass rate dropping. For example, at Chiadzwa primary school, only two students passed their ZIMSEC grade seven examinations in 2012.A study by Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Workers Union (ZIDAWU) in 2019 ascertained that education standards of schools in the so called green zone of diamond mining’s standards were quite low.

It is important to take note that there are some organizations and government departments that have been making efforts to create an ideal environment where children and youths can enjoy the fruits of God given minerals. Organizations like Zimbabwe environmental Law Association (ZELA), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), WLSA and World Vision have been working hard to improve the livelihood of young people by raising their capacity to defend a just cause. Researches, workshops and income generating programs are some of noteworthy activities that are being carried out. However, a lot still needs to be done to address the challenges being experienced in mineral rich communities. Most diamond communities are thirsting for meaningful development in their areas.

Given the above challenges and what is transpiring in the extractive mining industries as a youth l feel that the time is now to right the wrongs in Zimbabwe’s resource governance yes it sounds like a dream but certainly this is the Zimbabwe l envision.As for land degradation since it is caused by the mining companies they should pay deterrent fines and impose programs which promotes land rehabilitation like reforestation .

It is also important that we have legislative harmony as there still exist some loopholes in the implementation of our 2013 constitution. According to ZELA 2018 “there is a plethora of legislation governing the mining area leaving room for disharmony of legislation……”

Engagement is key to development. Mining communities must participate in community consultation meetings by mining companies and requests for sustainable projects that will benefit future generations.

On the issue of child participation, we need critical players like civic society organizations and faith-based organizations assisting in the warfare of children through paying school fees for them and building schools for them.

On the issue of relocation of people, mining companies should provide people with adequate information and also provide them with adequate space for farming and also grazing lands. They should also give people enough houses to accommodate them. The government stakeholders also need to make sure that whenever relocation takes place, people have water access among other social amenities.

Since everyone has the right to information, capacity building is very important to us as youths. The government should provide information in any way and in all languages be it in newspapers, magazines, radio or cellphones .Since the world we are living now is a world of technology we also need access to information centers where computers and access to internet is very easy ,that will be of great advantage since it will be easy for us to research. As youth it will be of great importance to know the developments.

As a youth l think if all these recommendations are put in place we could have a great Zimbabwe for us youth and the future generation. A Zimbabwe where law is the order of the day, where cooperate social responsibility is mandatory ,where information is a must that everyone should have access to it to mention but a few. This is the Zimbabwe l envision, the Zimbabwe l dream of.

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