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Looking Back : The Zimbabwe Mining Revenue Transparency Initiative

By Mutuso Dhliwayo (Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association)

Introduction

Unlike in the past when government’s intentions to join the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) have not been matched with significant follow ups from stakeholders, this time around, it is a different story altogether. Since the renewed commitment to be part of EITI family was made in the 2019 National Budget Statement, encouraging signs can be observed.

Last week, the EITI secretariat, led by its board chairperson, Helen Clarke visited Zimbabwe to engage with government, industry, and civil society to encourage the nation to join EITI. Government through the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development has actively participated in several international EITI events which include the 8th EITI global conference and of late the recent EITI board meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

As part of ZELA’s strategy to raise stakeholder awareness on EITI, we are developing several articles on mining sector transparency reforms in Zimbabwe. This articles steps back to focus on the aborted domestic version of EITI, the Zimbabwe Mining Revenue Transparency Initiative (ZMRTI).

The birth of ZMRTI

Based on the understanding that Zimbabwe needed an initiative that promotes transparency and accountability but not necessarily the EITI, a compromise was reached to adopt the ZMRTI.  An initiative of the Government of National Unity (GNU), ZMRTI was there from 2009 to 2013. The initiative was housed under the Office of the then Deputy Prime Minister [DPM], Thokozani Khupe. ZMRTI was approved by the GNU through the Medium-Term Plan on July 7, 2011 and was launched on the 8th of September 2011.

The DPM was the chairperson of the Cabinet Resource Mobilisation Committee. Among its responsibilities were “to come up with innovative ways of expanding the revenue base for the national purse”[1].  The ZMRTI was seen as one such innovation. The ZMRTI was based on the understanding of the role the mining sector could play in the recovery, stabilization and growth of the economy.

The ZMRTI was as a result of the determination of the GNU to give priority to “ rebuilding the mineral and mining sector as a core pillar of Zimbabwe’s economic and social turn around and development plans and to ensure that the country’s mineral wealth and natural resources were  developed and exploited for national benefit to help achieve growth , poverty reduction and economic and social equity”.

The ZMRTI was also a response to the growing interest and desire by stakeholders within the then GNU to have a better understanding of the contribution of the mining sector to Zimbabwe’s economic position. This was very evident in the debates of the amount of taxes paid and the benefits accruing from mining operations.  The objectives of the ZMRTI were therefore to:

  1. Create a participative and multi stakeholder process in order to promote dialogue and build trust by creating and effective forum for addressing mining sector issues and potentially providing concrete recommendations to national policy makers for decisions and action
  2. Generate independently -reconciled information for public dissemination setting out all significant mining sector revenues flows paid by the industry and received by government; and
  3. Create a platform for ongoing policy reforms designed to achieve good governance of the nation’s mineral resources and promote investment for the benefit of the country

Linkages between ZMRTI and EITI

From the objectives, it is clear that while ZMRTI derived its core principles from EITI. However, it is important to note that while ZMRTI derived principles from the broad EITI Standard, it was designed then to be implemented as “a wholly Zimbabwean initiative to be implemented by Zimbabwean stakeholders in order to meet Zimbabwean national policy goals”.

The ZMRTI was aimed to be stepping stone to Zimbabwe joining the EITI. The hope was that if ZMRTI was successful, it was in due course going to evolve as a process and Zimbabwe would apply to join and be part of the global EITI movement and apply the EITI Standard rules and methodologies as many countries that have joined are doing and derive benefits from joining the EITI.

                                                                                                                                                                          ZELA was invited by the then ODP to coordinate the participation of Civils Society Organisations (CSOs) and Community Based Organisations (CBOs) into the ZMRTI process. Among the CSOs and CBOs that ZELA brought into the process are the Chiadzwa Community Development Trust (CCDT), and Centre for Research and Development (CRD).

Progress in the implementation of the ZMRTI

Progress towards the implementation of the ZMRTI was made during the tenure of the GNU. This included the development of the ZMRTI Oversight Group Charter which defined membership, roles and working rules. The Oversight Group which had 18 members made up of Government, CSOs and mining companies was also set up. There was also development of a ZMRTI work plan for 12-18 months beginning in January 2012. Terms of reference had also been developed for the Scope and Content of the first ZMRTI Report.

Death of ZMRTI

The GNU ended in July 2013 and this marked the death of the ZMRTI or at least left it in limbo. While the   ZMRTI was a product of the GNU, it was mainly driven by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) under the ODP. To that end, it was viewed or perceived as an MDC initiative by the incoming government led by Zimbabwe African Union National Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) after the harmonized elections of July 2013. ZANU PF was not supportive of ZMRTI. That perception was very surprising because in as much as the ODP was leading ZMRTI, the initiative for all intents and purposes was a product of the GNU. However, while the Government was not supportive of ZMRTI after 2013, it remained interested in transparency and accountability issues in the mining sector. This was based on the economic realities like the need to enhance Domestic Resource Mobilisation (DRM). This thinking was reflected in the policy document / economic blue print that was adopted by the government called the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio- Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET).

Effective DRM to finance ZIMASSET was not possible in the absence of transparency and accountability.  Tellingly, it was the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MFED)that remained interested in transparency and accountability either in the form of reviving the ZMRTI or through the adoption of EITI. However, fiscal policy statements muted on implementation of either EITI or ZMRTI until the interest was reignited in the 2019 National Budget Statement.  It is important to note that during the tenure of the GNU, it was the MoFED that was in the forefront of championing a mineral resources governance framework. Then the Ministry was under the leadership of a Minister from the MDC. However, even under the leadership of a ZANU PF Minister after 2013, the Ministry remained interested in transparency and accountability issues.

Conclusion

Much as government has renewed its commitment to implement EITI, it is important to reflect on past initiatives to improve transparency in the mining sector, ZMRTI in this particular case. It is clear that ZMRTI was moulded from EITI. Therefore, by pushing for implementation of EITI, government is not showing a memory loss by not resuscitating ZMRTI. Although home grown solutions or custom made solutions are critical, in an industry denominated by global value chains, implementing EITI is a clear message that Zimbabwe is genuinely open for business. This recap was necessary based on the time lapse since the adoption of ZMRTI. It was meant to refresh the memories of stakeholders that includes CSOs, Community Based Organisations , Members of Parliament , industry and Government. The hope is that the push to adopt EITI will build on the lessons learnt from the implementation of ZMRTI.


[1] Thabani V.Mpfofu. Principal Director Research and Development, Office of the Prime Minister. Why the Zimbabwe Mining Revenue Transparency Initiative (ZMRTI)? How it will be structured and implemented.

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