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ZAMI@10: Unpacking Alternative Mining Indaba (Concept and History)

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By Dr Tinashe Gumbo

10 October 2021

 Reflecting in Celebrations

From 3 to 8 October 2021, Zimbabwe’s civil society, churches and their key stakeholders in the natural resources governance, gathered in Bulawayo, for the 10th edition of the Zimbabwe Alternative Mining Indaba (ZAMI). It was an event characterized by songs, dance, reflection sessions and launch of various campaigns on natural resources governance.

The process ran under the theme “Amplifying Community Voices for Improved Accountability and Transparency in Natural Resources’ Governance in Zimbabwe”. The 2021 edition was critical as it was a moment for the conveners and their stakeholders to reflect on the journey that had been travelled in the last decade.

While, I make reference to some specific sessions of the 2021 ZAMI, in this piece I attempt at unpacking the Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI) concept for the benefit of our citizens who have not been directly involved in this process. The article is also a contribution to my blog page. Mukasiri Sibanda, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) Board Chair, a key figure in the AMIs, argued during the 2021 ZAMI that, “blogging builds the power to influence”. He has continued to challenge activists to blog, and indeed, I am complying with his “command”.

 AMI Conveners in Zimbabwe

The AMIs in Zimbabwe are being speared headed by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) and ZIMCODD with direct technical support from some national and regional organisations such as the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD), Economic Justice Network (EJN) of the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (FOCCISA). Other technical partners who have become critical players in AMIs include the Transparency International Zimbabwe and Publish What You Pay. International civic and ecumenical organisations have also remained key in supporting the process.

Yet, the process has birthed many community based organisations (COBs) and new networks established. As of 2021, the following have become key stakeholders in the AMI processes: Government Ministries; Parliament of Zimbabwe; labour; various CSOs (youth, women, people with disabilities); artisanal miners; traditional leaders; arts; local authorities; media; private sector; academia and research institutions.

 Key Focus Areas for 2021

The just ended ZAMI was punctuated with side (and main) sessions that focused on specific topical issues such as:

  • The extraction of oil and gas;
  • Debt, tax justice and illicit financial flows;
  • Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) and labour
  • Mining and inequalities;
  • Land use and conflicts in mining communities;
  • Stewardship of the environment;
  • Litigation and defence of human rights in the natural resource governance;
  • Artisanal mining and promotion of peace;
  • Inclusivity in mining sector and
  • Faith leaders monitoring of the extractive sector among others

However, the meeting also took time to reflect on the achievements, limitations and prospects of the AMI going forward. Indeed, after ten years of activism, activists needed to look back and confirm if they were making any progress.

 An Activist who studied Activism

As an “activist who studied activism and continue to practice activism”, I was privileged to participate in the 10th edition of the ZAMI. I managed to connect (and reconnect) with others in this “activism business”. Furthermore, as someone who aspires to remain rooted in this unique form of activism, I humbly accepted an invitation from the ZAMI organisers to present on some key existing and emerging mining issues. Certainly, such an opportunity would inform my ongoing study of natural resources governance in Zimbabwe.

I discovered that a lot is happening in the mining sector: new issues that require academic, policy maker and activists ‘attention have emerged. I was one of the discussants in a side session that focused on EITI and labour with a particular interest in the role of mining companies in the implementation of EITI. I argued for a more inclusive and comprehensive definition of the “civil society, mining companies and Government and the scope of EITI”. The current definition of civil society seems to leave out key players such as social movements and other community based organisations (CBOs). Furthermore, the definition of mining companies does not give room for the consideration of those where Government has a stake. The scope of EITI also does not give much attention to some important relevant matters regarding gender, local content development (LCD), corporate social responsibility (CSR) and labour (conditions and abuses of workers). Reader, a separate discussion on this matter will be attempted.

Below, I now focus on defining the AMI (the concept and its historical development) and attempt at hinting on some of its achievements, challenges, and opportunities associated with it. This piece is directly informed by Gumbo (2020)’s Chapter 8 of his project entitled “Community-Based Activism and Local Content Development: The Case of Platinum Mining Communities in Zimbabwe” (Available online).

 An AMI as Community Activism hence “Double Movement”

Gumbo (2020) argues that an AMI is a form of community activism on natural resources governance. The AMI concept was born as a countermovement to the ongoing Mining Indaba that is held annually in Cape Town, South Africa by the mining companies. For Gumbo, an AMI is actually a “double movement” (see Karl Polanyi, 1944) where communities are reacting to the effects of market liberalism that has continued to negatively affect host mining communities in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the world.

It had been realised that the mining indabas were only meant for the capitalists who meet to strategize on how to maximise profits from the mining sector (Moreblessings Chidaushe, Norwegian Church Aid, Interview, 9 August 2018). In the same interview, Chidaushe argued that the mining companies plan for the mining of resources, yet, the host mining communities who bear the impacts of mining both socially and environmentally were (are) not part of that discussion. The companies will also invite African governments whom they “manipulate due to their compromised positions” regarding foreign direct investment (FDI) where they (governments) desperately need assistance hence acceptance to some unbearable mining conditions which affect their people. Moreover, participation at the Mining Indaba calls for one to pay more than one thousand United States Dollars (at least by 2018), a figure that cannot be afforded by the majority of citizens who may be interested in attending the indaba.

Thus, in 2010, the civil society organisations (CSOs) in Southern Africa teamed up and came up with an idea for an alternative platform for the ordinary community people to discuss issues that affect them with regards to mining activities (Gumbo, 2020). The CSOs in the region received technical support from international organisations led by the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA). The AMIs became annual events with an international one being held in Cape Town, parallel to the Mining Indaba. The concept has been cascaded to national, provincial and district platforms. Hence it has become a movement with a powerful voice that is able to challenge the international mining corporations which enjoy global support in terms of their policies (said Mukasiri Sibanda, then a ZELA Program Officer, Interview, 10 November 2016).

Since 2012, ZELA, ZIMCODD and ZCC adopted the process at provincial and national levels and in 2016 district platforms were created. I am proud to have been a key figure in the conceptualisation of the District Alternative Mining Indabas (DAMIs) when I was a Program Officer at ZIMCODD with our first one being convened in Penalonga while ZELA did the same in other different districts of operation then.

 The three organisations, managed to establish a Steering Committee which looks into the planning, organisation and convening of the annual processes at district, provincial and national levels. The committee members are also key at international level where they are involved in Cape Town processes for the international edition. The Committee is also responsible for ensuring that recommendations adopted at different AMIs are followed up for their implementation by relevant stakeholders. Thus, the 2021 ZAMI marked the 10th anniversary of the platform in Zimbabwe.

 AMIs: What For?

The objectives of the AMIs are replicated from international to district platforms. The objectives of DAMIs, PAMIs and ZAMI are directly informed by the original ones agreed upon when the idea was first muted.  Mandla Hadebe of the EJN, explained during the 2021 ZAMI that the global goal of the AMI platform is to present an alternative voice, the community voice, to that of corporates who meet annually during the Mining Indaba.

 Thus, the AMIs at different levels, through effective advocacy, will enhance transparency and accountability in the governance of natural resources leading to an Africa that extracts minerals in a more sustainable way that also ensures equitable distribution of resources among present and future generations.

Gumbo (2020), summarises the objectives as shared by the Steering Committee members as follows:

  • To provide a platform to empower communities affected and impacted by the extractives industries to reclaim their rights through the formulation of alternatives
  • To advocate for transparent, equitable and just extractives practices in the management, governance and distribution of national resources through policy and legislative reform
  • To create meaningful decision-making processes for communities advocating for just national and regional policies and corporate practices
  • To provide space for engagement for the interfaith communities, governments, CSOs and private sector to share information on natural resources

The mining sector is critical in Zimbabwe hence the communities needed the capacity to speak on their own regarding the governance of their natural resources. The AMI provides that platform where the communities engage the policy makers in a safe environment. The platform also provides solidarity among the affected communities of Great Dyke, Manicaland and other areas where mining activities are felt. Thus, issues that emerge at district level are channelled to national platforms via the provincial AMIs.

 Methodological Issues

Methodologically, the AMIs allow experts to share their perspectives on mining; government departments to update on critical policy matters; community members to share their experiences with regard to mining activities while the parliamentarians would also do the same with regards to the legislative frameworks. Local authorities and CBOs also have the opportunity to amplify their voices regarding key issues such as the CSR and LCD aspirations, taxation and others. Traditional leaders also come in to discuss the effects of mining on their cultural and religious lives particularly issues to do with prior informed consent which has remained a major concern on their part. The CSOs in their different forms share their experiences with mining (research, policy alternatives, engagement reports and other products are shared). Mining companies who attend are expected to give feedback regarding their policies on the various existing and emerging issues like taxes, CSR and LCD initiatives. Artisanal and small scale miners engage different stakeholders regarding their specific concerns.

 Break away (side) sessions allow participants to concentrate on specific areas of interest in a more detailed approach. Outcomes from such sessions inform the final resolutions that are channelled to the next phase of the AMIs. District and provincial AMIs deal with specific mining issues in the respective communities and this informs the engagement strategies in those areas. The recommendations made at every ZAMI (national AMI) are followed up with specific stakeholders and progress reported in the next meeting of the following year. Thus, testimonies coming from the communities shape the agenda of the AMI at international level.

During the 2021 ZAMI, I was privileged to represent the Steering Committee through delivering closing remarks. I certainly emphasised the fact that when the AMIs started, CSOs and churches were confrontational in terms of their methodologies. However, ten years down the line, the AMI is now a platform for progressive dialogue among CSOs, churches, parliamentarians, Government Departments, traditional leaders, local authorities and others. Strong working relationships have been built for fruitful engagement.

What is in the AMI Themes: Few Samples

Each AMI will be hinged on a particular theme that is agreed upon by the Steering Committee in consultation with communities and other stakeholders. The annual themes for the AMIs emphasise the need to make mining one of the sectors that benefit all the stakeholders as well as an encouragement for engagement (Gumbo, 2020).

 For instance, the 2016 national AMI theme was ‘Mining Sector Reforms: A Call for Economic, Social and Environmental Justice’ (2016 ZAMI Programme Report). The theme was inspired by the quest to influence then ongoing legislative and policy reforms in the mining sector and ensure that there was a conducive operating environment for mining sector to make contributions to the economy well.

For 2017 the theme was ‘Responsible and Accountable Governance of Minerals ’. This emphasised the need for good governance of Zimbabwe’s mineral resources while it also called for stakeholders to be responsible in their business.

 For 2018 the theme ran ‘Accountable and Transparent Governance of Mineral Resources: Safeguarding Development Interests of Local Communities in Mining Sector Reforms ’. This was meant to allow the stakeholders to interrogate the ongoing mining policy and legal reform processes.

The 2021 one as already given in my introduction of this article, further pushes for the amplification of the community voices on natural resources governance. This explains why EITI discussions dominated most of the sessions during the 2021 ZAMI.

Therefore, the platform asserts its authority as a progressive multi-stakeholder platform that facilitates discussion of the sector and proffering policy, legislative and programming interventions to promote sustainable mineral resources exploitation (2016 ZAMI Programme Report, cited in Gumbo, 2020). Most importantly, it allows the ordinary community member to engage the key stakeholders in the sector on critical matters affecting him or her. Thus, themes shaped the focus for each AMI.

 AMI Achievements

The 2021 ZAMI was a moment of reflection by the delegates who gathered at Holiday Inn in Bulawayo for the whole week. By the way, “COVID-19 nearly muted our voices but we innovatively kept the fire burning” (I emphasised this in my closing remarks for the ZAMI).

From 2020, thousands of delegates attended the AMIs virtually while smaller numbers anchored the processes physically. Ironically, this innovation allowed more people to follow proceedings compared to previous ones when attendance had been limited to those on the scene. What a great opportunity brought about by the COVID-19? A challenge turned into an opportunity for AMIs!

 During the 2021 ZAMI, a session to reflect on the journey travelled along the ZAMI road, presided over by Hadebe (EJN) revealed that indeed, there is more to celebrate than to mourn about. While contributing during one of the side sessions that focused on EITI and trade unions, Tatenda Mombeyarara, the ZIMCODD Northern Region Chairperson came up with superb description of the AMIs in general,  when he said “AMIs have become the universities for our ordinary people…”

 Indeed, the platform has been an educative and informative one. On the part of faith leaders, the platform provide them with an opportunity to cultivate a culture of dialogue among Zimbabweans. Through theological reflections, the Church leaders have also continued to emphasise that citizens should be good stewards of God’s resources.

 Bishop Ignatius Makumbe of the ZCC had this to say in one of the theological reflections sessions “While others may say silent is golden, indeed, when our resources are threatened by poor governance by some of us, then silence becomes costly…”

Gumbo (2020) also attempts at tracking the achievement of the AMIs in general (at least by 2020) and the following were noted:

  • The main achievement of the AMI platform is its ability to replicate itself at district, provincial and national levels beyond Cape Town. Now we talk of District Alternative Mining Indabas (DAMIs); Provincial Alternative Mining Indabas (PAMIs) and ZAMIs.
  • Enhanced engagement among stakeholders on critical natural resources matters: The methodology moved from confrontational approach to dialogue and this proves to be working as stakeholders have converged around the issues affecting our communities.
  • Traditional leaders and local communities indicated that due to the AMIs, their capacity to comprehend natural resources issues has increased and they are now able to engage at any platform
  • Relationships built among communities, local authorities and “some” mining companies have led to convergence around the real needs of the host communities when it comes to CSR and LCD programmes
  • The AMI processes saw the emergence of a considerable number of CBOs working on natural resource governance. These are found across the country but mainly concentrated in Manicaland and in the Midlands (along the Great Dyke belt) provinces.
  • Gumbo (2020) closely tracks the work of three CBOs namely the Turf Resource Conversation Trust (TRCT); Shurugwi Community Development Trust (SCDT) and Mhondongori Resource Community Development Trust (MRCT). Thus, one of the AMIs’ major achievement is the cultivation of community activism around natural resource governance.
  • The agenda of the AMIs has been consistent and Gumbo (2020) notes some important victories from the process. These include the amplification of the need for some legislative and policy reforms to address issues of CSR, LCD and farmer-miner conflicts

 Notable Gaps and Opportunities

The 2021 ZAMI delegates noted the following gaps that still need attention:

  • While issues of transparency and accountability have been on the agenda, certainly, more is still expected from the mining companies and the Government-this remains an opportunity for the AMI players to continue working on. The Parliamentarians who attended, notably the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development, Hon Edward Mkaratigwa was at pains to explain why the domestication of the EITI process just vanished with the conclusion of the Unity Government. The Parliament was challenged to ensure that processes initiated are seen through to their conclusion as parliamentarians have an oversight role over other State Arms.
  • Corruption and illicit financial flows have also remained a thorn in the skin of Zimbabwe. A lot still needs to be done in this area. The Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence, Security and Home Affairs, Hon Brigadier General Rtd Levi Mayihlome actually lamented and hoped that “one day we will have an ethics of accountability in Zimbabwe).
  • Labour issues have also not been getting the attention they deserve. Poor working conditions, abuses by mining companies and poor remuneration need to be looked at in future AMI processes. The delegates that represented labour shared their sad experiences where they are exposed to all forms of abuse by their employers in the sector. The upcoming AMIs need to work towards influencing an expanded EITI scope.
  • The AMIs also need to closely check the status of the Community Share Ownership Trusts (CSOTs). The previous AMIs celebrated this initiative but along the way, efforts around it faded for both the AMI players and the Government itself.

 About the Author

Dr Tinashe Gumbo, is the Team Leader, Council Programs at the ZCC. He studied the AMIs as part of his PhD. At some moment, he worked at the ZIMCODD as the Policy Research and Advocacy Program Officer. He writes this piece in his personal capacity and is responsible for any interpretation or misinterpretation of any given facts. For feedback and interaction, he can be contacted on Mobile/WhatsApp +263 773218860; Email: tinashegumbo@gmail.com; Blog: tinashegumbo.wordpress.com; Twitter: DrTinasheGumbo1

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