Dated: 29 June 2020
On the23rd of May 2019, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches brought together more than 100 community members drawn from Sese Village of Chivi, local leaders, faith-based organisations and civil society organisations who gathered at the Chivi Community Hall for the inaugural Chivi District Alternative Mining Indaba.
Noting the urgent need to bring together a broad range of stakeholders from the mining community to discuss mining related development in the community and its possible impact on the ordinary citizens. One of the causes for concern was how mining investment in the community is totally opposed to principles of good practices on business and human rights.
We are in 2020, and ordinarily this time around we should be convening the District Alternative Mining Indabas (DAMI). However, the coronavirus scourge has resulted in less direct interaction with communities. This pandemic has had a global effect, literally affecting all the facets of life. Zimbabwe has not been spared either,561 positive coronavirus cases and six deaths have been recorded so far. The government began a nationwide lockdown on March 30, 2020 and it must be noted that the mining sector was exempted from the lockdown as an essential service given its contribution to national economic development and generation of the much-needed foreign currency. Mining companies were ordered to fully ensure the safety and health of their workers by observing guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).It is commendable to note that some mining companies have managed to put in place measures to improve access to health care and medical facilities for their workers. However, it remains important for mining companies to assess the vulnerabilities associated with mineral supply chain actors in the contraction and spread of COVID-19. Mining communities like anyone else are susceptible to the virus and are at a greater risk of infection owing to the mobility of investors, small-scale miners and poorly equipped health facilities in the communities.
It is against this background that mining companies must ensure that they shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that their employees and surrounding communities are safe. This is one of several progressive ways to compensate the mining-affected communities for loss of their lands, livelihoods and the destructive environmental impacts of mining.
Mining communities close to porous borders like Chivi, Penhalonga among others are faced with a peculiar risk – growing influx of returnees sneaking into communities and avoiding quarantine places. Therefore, it is important for the Government to put in place measures to safeguard people living in these communities. Information dissemination and civic education on preventive/safeguarding measures should be put in place.
The global pandemic has compelled several organisations to adopt new ways of working while ensuring that no one is left behind. The Alternative Mining Indabas’ signature objective is to ensure that citizens are mobilized and empowered to actively participate in the formulation and implementation of policies that enable sustainable socio-economic development hinged on mineral wealth exploitation. Given the country’s vast mineral resource endowments, if these are judiciously exploited, they can lead to sustainable socio-economic growth, industrialization, job creation, and investment in human development projects. This vision is also enshrined in the Africa Mining Vision (AMV).
It is against this background that ZELA, ZIMCODD and ZCC conducted DAMI radio dialogue sessions. The radio series were aimed at discussing mining related development in the Chivi community and its possible impacts on the ordinary citizens. In addition, the radio conversations brought to the fore the socio-economic implications of coronavirus to the mineral host community.
On the 7th of May 2020 the radio dialogue focused on the theme; Amplifying community voices in fighting mining related injustices and inequalities.’
- The panellist took the opportunity to raise awareness on the COVID-19 related laws and their implications on limitation of rights as well as the corporate social responsibility that accrued to companies such as Murowa Diamonds who were exempted and granted full operating rights during the lockdown.
- Some of the issues raised during the question and answer session were related to access to water and the right to a clean and safe environment. The listeners indicated that Murowa Diamond company allegedly contaminated some of their water sources and due to the COVID-19 lockdown conditions, they were now failing to move freely to other areas to obtain clean and safe water.
The 20th of May’s discussion centred around Free Prior and Informed Consent
- The critical aspects of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) were discussed including how it is an essential tool to protect environmental and human rights.
- It was underscored that free, prior and informed consent process ensures that there is equal consideration of various perspectives and ensures inclusive decision – making.
- Questions from the listeners arose on the practicality of FPIC to which this was addressed through references to the Constitution.
- Communities were made aware that whilst FPIC is not expressly found in the Constitution, this principle is implied in Sections 13 (national development), 62 (access to information), 68 (right to administrative justice) and 73 (environmental rights) and these sections would be their redress avenues.
The 27th of May’s focus was on Tax Justice and Community Beneficiation
- Community beneficiation in Zimbabwe used to be contained in the Indigenous and Economic Empowerment legal framework and in the mining sector this was through establishment of community share ownership trusts.
- The current government reviewed the laws and repealed this legal framework. Initially the indication was the scrapping of CSOTs for all the other minerals except for platinum and diamonds. This pronouncement was then followed with another one indicating that even the diamond and platinum sectors would not be subject of CSOTs anymore. The key objective of the trusts was to ensure that communities benefit from the exploitation of natural resources in their localities.
- Although some of the CSOTs had challenges, in some instances they really worked to improve community services. We highlighted that we believe that in the absence of a legal framework for community benefits like the CSOTs, the government must come up with an improved scheme to achieve much better results aimed at economically and socially empowering indigenous communities living in mineral resource areas. This will ensure that they benefit from the extraction of the minerals. In addition, the government can impose certain taxes and obligations on companies that are doing extractive work to ensure that communities benefit from the mining activities.
- Tax systems need to be understood within the wider context of fiscal policy and the effective management of public resources for the benefit of the majority.
- Listeners were given a practical application of national development in the Constitution vis- a vis the mining activities on the ground. The issues of job creation that were anticipated in communities such as Chivi were raised and it was highlighted how companies and communities can come up with strategies to overcome the obstacles and potential conflict in the area.
This time last year, we made the following recommendations to the Government of Zimbabwe, Ministry of Mines and Mining Development and relevant stakeholders and we continue to echo the same sentiments a year down the line.
- As Zimbabwe continues to push for Foreign Direct Investment under the dictum of Zimbabwe is “Open for Business,” policies must be suitably tailored to promote intra and inter-generational equity in the mining sector;
- A mutually beneficial partnership between the state, the private sector, civil society, local communities and other stakeholders must be developed;
- Responsible investments should conform to Zimbabwean mining laws, uphold the principles of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which have provisions that in order to promote responsible investments, States have the duty to protect everyone within their territory from human rights abuses committed by business enterprises;
- Mining laws must be aligned with Constitutional provisions not limited to transparency and accountability, financial probity, respect of human rights, passage of mining concession laws;
- There is need for genuine involvement of communities during the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process while Communities should be consulted adequately prior, during and post EIA process;
- There is need for the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and other relevant stakeholders to expedite the adoption of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative as committed in the 2019 National budget for the good governance of Zimbabwe’s mineral resources;
- As the Government of Zimbabwe moves towards reforming the archaic Mines and Minerals Act, our call is that it recognises and formalises the artisanal and small-scale mining sector. It is important to recognise that ASM is both a poverty-driven and a poverty alleviating, finite activity.
Harnessing mineral resources for economic development and community empowerment is critical in addressing the poverty scourge and improving the quality of life for all Zimbabweans as envisioned by section 13 of the Constitution.
“Promoting Safe and Responsible Mining”