Compiled by Kudakwashe Makanda
The continued suffering of mining communities has also been attributed to the role played by Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs). This is largely due to the fact that PEPs generally present a higher risk for potential involvement in bribery and corruption by virtue of their position and the influence that they may hold.
These PEPs can actually be an asset in Zimbabwe’s fight against exploitation of mining communities as they wield so much influence and can play a crucial role in reforming the archaic and exploitative mining legislation. Politicians who reside in mining communities are better placed to challenge the land degradation, socio-economic disruption and ecological debt being perpetrated by the miners but instead some of them choose to take bribes and offer the miners political shield so that they become immune to being accountable and they commit all these socio-ecological atrocities with impunity.
In Mutoko’s black granite quarrying communities, there are cases where the community members have challenged the miners for degrading their environment and failing to rehabilitate or meaningfully contributing towards its development but these communities have received threats from very powerful politicians who are now siding with the exploiters. This reality is not only unique to Mutoko but any other mining community. Those with the power to influence positive change are the ones using their influence to entrench the status quo.
Furthermore, PPE last are influential and have the capacity to make decisions that enable them to unduly benefit from the tenders and procurement that happen in the mining sector.
The ousting of former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, in 2017, exposed how his wife the First Lady Grace Mugabe was a major shareholder in Mutoko’s granite quarrying companies. We are not saying that being a shareholder is a crime, but the fact that she used her influence to get those granite claims and worse still never advocated for the betterment of the extractive activities in the community, and instead gave a blind eye to the destructive extraction taking place in the district.
There are councilors and chiefs who are on mining companies’ payroll and they get free monthly fuel and groceries just as a measure to keep them compromised. These are public officials, elected and appointed to represent the wishes of the people. However, they have since misused their office and authority and the local communities remain victims. If one is to go and ask what the companies are doing as Corporate Social Responsibility, the money, fuel, grocery handouts that are given to the individual PEPs like MPs, Councillors, Chiefs/Headmen are actually referred to as CSR yet they have been benefiting individuals at the community’s expense.
So with this being the case, can we safely say PEPs are an asset or a liability and if it’s the latter, how then can we towards ensuring that we bring them to account and they can serve the purpose they were elected and or appointed to do?
One way to ensure that PEPs are an asset is by advocating for the realization of the Chapter 4 section 64 of the Zimbabwean Constitution which entitles every citizen with the Right to information. It is a good thing that the Companies’ Act now has a Beneficial Ownership Clause which mandates all corporates to disclose all beneficial owners of a company but however this beneficial owners register should be made public and easily accessible. Citizens should be in a position to easily access the Vendors List with the names of all directors of all vendors providing a service to mining companies. This will make the sector more transparent and such openness will make it difficult for PEPs to abuse office as information will be readily available and easy to closely monitor. Any conflict of interest will be easily identified and exposed and this reduces the prevalence of corruption in the sector.