By Joyce Nyamukunda Machiri, Zimbabwe PWYP Coordinator
The COVID-19 crisis that has hit Zimbabwe and the global village has made us to realize the need and importance of transparency and accountability in management of our mineral resources for improved service delivery. Walking round Zimbabwe’s mining communities, there is very little to show for the minerals being extracted in those localities. Nationally, the economy is struggling. Gold, diamonds, platinum, chrome, granite and other minerals are being extracted every day. One wonders what is happening to the revenue generated from these minerals. The mining sector is not fulfilling its potential and expectations in terms of contributing towards economic development and improved service delivery.
A year has passed since Zimbabwe was hit by Cyclone Idai but the effects are still being felt by many. The storm, subsequent flooding and landslides affected 270,000 people and left 340 people dead and many others missing (read here). Currently the nation is faced with the Corona virus and it is evident that there are no resources to fight this pandemic . This is clear evidence of poor linkages between mining revenue and service delivery. Output growth in the mining sector, judging by government’s plans, is expected to reach US$12 billion annually by 2023. Human Development Indicators (HDIs) are pointing in the opposite direction. Zimbabwe’s HDI value for 2018 is 0.563— which put the country in the medium human development category—positioning it at 150 out of 189 countries and territories. Most suburbs have no water, household waste collection is not done on a frequent basis. A lot of man-made garbage dumps can be seen around and this itself breeds pandemics such as cholera.
Before the country was hit by COVID-19, the health sector had already deteriorated with no signs of revival. Doctors have been striking several times because of poor remuneration, lack of equipment and medicines. As Publish What You Pay Zimbabwe (PWYP) we are concerned about how revenue from the mineral resources is being used. There is no transparency and no one to account for the mineral revenue use. All we hear is how the mining sector is expected to revive the economy. First it was the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET), now we have the 12 billion mobilisation strategy. There is no further information on how the mobilized funds have been used and how the current one is going to be used.
Revenue being generated has failed to deliver services such as the health sector, the treasury has no reserves to react and address disasters such as the Cyclone idai and the COVID-19 pandemic. We mine and sell gold which is used by other countries as reserves, as a nation do we have our own gold reserves which help us in such times as this? Mukasiri Sibanda says, “the donation made by the Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, has given an adrenaline shot to government’s efforts to control the scourge of coronavirus, where is the money from our resources going? The pandemic is here with us now, procurement of resources to use in the health sector is ongoing. What measures are there to ensure transparency in such processes? How are we working to ensure that prices are not inflated and that there is no corruption in the process? The sector is shrouded with secrecy which in itself costs the nation of the much needed resources.
Cyclone Idai should have been a learning point for Zimbabwe to get ready and prepare for natural disasters such as these. How are we also being accountable on the aid coming from both internal and external aid being provided to try and contain COVID-19? Cyclone Idai had elements of corruption and diversion of donations to personal use. Can government be transparent and accountable in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in the use of mineral revenue for service delivery? Excitement was brought when the 2019 budget statement was announced. The Minister of Finance mentioned that Zimbabwe is considering joining Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) as expressed in the 2019 Budget Statement.
In his statement the Minister of Finance mentioned that; “In order to move along with international best practices on achieving transparency in management of natural resources, Government would want to be a member of the EITI as soon as possible. Membership is critical in order for the country to benefit from strengthened public and corporate governance, promote understanding of natural resource management, and provide the data that guide reforms for greater transparency and accountability in the extractives sector”. Early this year, the excitement was destroyed when the Independent newspaper covered a story that government is not keen to join EITI.
In light of this COVID-19 crisis, it is important for Zimbabwe to join EITI as this will ensure revenue from the minerals is prioritized in economic development and service delivery. The 2020 budget speaks about engagement with the international community. It is important that government also urgently recommits to join EITI and give clear milestone for joining EITI.