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Author: Mukasiri Sibanda

Missing in action, why CSOs must be solid social media influencers

Ms Nyanzi, a Ugandan and a trained medical anthropologist once said in a story posted by The New York Times “…social media is very elitist, by using it, i know we are excluding a huge majority of the population, but it scares the powerful…” Although Nyanzi was challenging a Ugandan ruler, civil society organisations (CSOs) which seek to challenge abuse of power by government and corporates must find resonance in her words. Considering measures taken to control the spread of corona virus world over – social distancing, self-quarantining and lockdown among others, this is a perfect opportunity to talk about missing in action for CSOs and why it is important to grow influence on social media. Last week, i shared an article that I wrote with a colleague – Lockdown not a time for CSOs to hibernate, but to reflect and to be creative. This article is profoundly shaped by my experiences as an activist and a social media influencer on mineral resource governance issues.

What motivates me to share my journey is the desire to challenge civil society actors to grow their influence on social media to reinvigorate advocacy initiatives. In the mining sector, whilst the action is location specific, the whole operations are denominated by global value chains (GVCs) – access to capital, finance, markets, goods and services. So, what does it take to ensure our voices are heard in those spaces thousand miles away from physical action? There are many stakeholders who are keen to keep track of the work that we do, how do we ensure that we are our activities are not picked by their radar screens? In an environment where space for civil society is shrinking, governments label our work as at cross purpose with national interests, how do constantly tell our stories as builders in society? We seek to build networks, create and grow demand for our advocacy messages in an era where there is an avalanche of information, how do we navigate this terrain? These are some of the questions that I seek to tackle, like I said, based on my curiosity and experiences.

Influencing the big guys from far away places

Mining operations are certainly location-based. Communities close to where mining operations are taking place, therefore, are saddled with environment, economic, social and cultural costs of extraction of minerals. While mining is location specific, the business is fastened on GVCs for access to capital, markets, goods and services. The community struggle for mitigating the costs of extraction and for amplifying local mining benefit must expand its scope to influence players along the GVCs, especially investors and the market. Big players in the capital market for mining are found in countries like USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa and UK. Shareholders, financiers, asset managers and potential investors must be informed of the impact of their investment on communities were resources are extracted. I have come to realise that each time when I write a story on Zimplats and share it online. The story ends up being shared to Zimplats shareholders, investors and interested parties on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) where the company is directly listed. For example, my blog post Should We Celebrate The Government- Zimplats land Deal or Worry. In this post, I lamented corruption risks associated with the secrecy around the land deal and lack of competitive bidding in the disposal by government of mineral rights with high geological potential. This development was contrary to the aspirations of the Africa Mining Vision.

Missing in action

If CSOs are not careful, they can easily self-quarantine from their stakeholders whom they seek to influence. Only to interact with their stakeholders for what they deem essential to their agenda, conferences or meetings mainly. Social media helps to ensure CSOs are regularly touch with stakeholders. By so doing, CSOs are mitigating the risk of evanescent or quickly fading advocacy initiatives. There are instances when CSOs are accused of missing in action by stakeholders like communities, funding partners, media and legislators. In fact, some CSOs will be on the ground doing what they know best. Visibility is a huge challenge. most of the hard work done by CSOs is suffocated by poor communication. In the game of influence, advice can be borrowed from the legal fraternity – justice must not only be served, but is must be seen to be served.

When tragedy struck the artisanal and small scale (ASM) on 13 February 2019, at Cricket mine in Kadoma, known as the battlefields, was not missing in action. Representing ZELA, regularly using twitter, i publicly shared information pertaining to the rescue efforts. On top of twitter updates, I then published a blog to share lessons learnt from the Battlefields disaster. The blog was published in one of main daily newspapers in Zimbabwe.

The missing in action part is not only pronounced when disaster strikes, or emergence cases arise. It also pertains to topical developments in the area of interest in which CSOs are supposed to stimulate or enrich the public discourse. Because there is an avalanche of information, it is vital for CSOs to ensure that where known patterns of key developments exist in an area of interest, the voice of CSOs must not be missed. A case in point from my experience is the fiscal policy trail. One important lens of mineral resource governance is fiscal linkages. As such, my blog is clued-up on prebudget public consultations, national budget statements, midterm budget reviews, reports generated by the auditor general, and tax revenue performance reports generated by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA).

Build networks, create and grow demand for information

Nowadays relations can be created virtually using social media with like-minded organisations, funding partners, media, academia, public officials, and private sector players. Because i started and sustained a blog on mining and sustainable development since 2015, I used to get numerous requests from media houses who sought permission to publish what I posted. Some have sought to contract me to write weekly for a fee. Usually, my response was that my blog is an open source, feel free to pick what you like, so long you acknowledge the source. At times i don’t wait for their requests, rather i try to proactively share every fresh blog post via WhatsApp and twitter direct message, giving a soft nudge to journalists to publish the blog.

Not all blogs I generated get to be published by journalists, however, i have enjoyed an encouraging success with the press. Both private and public media often fish from my blog for stories. It is significant to flag, in Zimbabwe, generally, public media is viewed as aligned to the ruling party. Whilst views on private media oscillate between neutrality and being pro opposition. Having work which features in both private and public media can be taken as a sign of established credibility of my bog, for opinions and reports on key events in mining sector.

Each time when I have a fallow period on my blog, two-three weeks or a month, normally I get request from public officials, peers and journalists on why i am so quiet. It is good sometimes, to take a break, to refresh, reenergise and reset to ensure my blog does not mis its punch. Aside from media, I have received requests from academics seeking to mine information from my blog. Some colleagues in civil society tell me privately that we may not acknowledge your work publicly, but we use the blog to get creative ideas for framing our interventions and for developing proposals. The blog has also served as an inspiration to my peers to start blogging.

Public accountability goes beyond contractual obligations with funding partners

Underpinning the mission statement of most CSOs is, to bridge the gap between government and its citizens, and to play a watchdog role on government and corporates from a rights-based approach. With funding partners, CSOs have written contractual obligations to fulfil. Among the contractual obligations, CSOs must account for the work they do – progress, challenges, lessons learnt and results. In real terms, CSOs have a social contract with citizens and stakeholders they work with when it comes to accounting for their action. Social media presents opportunities for CSOs to publicly account to stakeholders. Examples include, giving frequent updates on progress regarding interventions via social media, challenges, opportunities, results and most significant change stories.

Peter Sigauke, CEO Mutoko Rural District Council (MRDC) once remarked during one of the ZELA’s annual retreat “we also need opportunities to participate in international conferences where current trends on resource governance are shared. Even though we are missing out, we are grateful to get regular updates from Mukasiri Sibanda’s blog.” Chief Mapanzure, a traditional leader echoed similar statements that “the blog is playing a critical role to keep community members and other stakeholders informed on key developments in the sector.” When i write on my blog, I take time to share the post on various WhatsApp groups for communities affected by mining operations that we work with.

By so doing, even funding partners can see weight in the reports submitted by CSOs as the issues reported to them are not secretive, but open for public scrutiny. When I am entrusted with the responsibility to write a narrative report to a funding partners, usually, I use my blog to put links on workshop reports, contextual developments, challenges and successes. Certainly, there is always room for improvement. The feedback though has always been awesome.

Bridging the gap between perception and reality

Because of poor communication, interested parties can be in the dark in terms of operations undertaken by CSOs. In an environment denominated by suspicion, CSOs viewed as having a nefarious agenda to undermine national development interest. CSOs, in the case of Zimbabwe, get significant funding from countries that have imposed “sanctions”  or restrictive measures on Zimbabwe, depending on one’s view. Government, in some instances, has openly labelled CSOs as regime change agents. By openly communicating the work that CSOs do via social media, it narrows the gap between perception and reality. Those that have ulterior motive of labelling the work of CSOs as being at cross purpose with national development interests are easily exposed. Several times, I have been asked by officers from the President’s office pertaining to the work that we do as ZELA. Always, in my response, I do not miss the opportunity to proudly tell them that we are not an underground operation, our work is publicly shared online, via WhatsApp groups, twitter, blog, website, email lists and newspapers.

It is also interesting to step aside to borrow inspiration from the bible when it comes to communication issues. In Mathew 16: 13-20, Jesus asked his disciples, “who do the people say that I am?” And later, he asked his disciples that “who do you say that I am?” Suffice to say, on the first question, the responses were quite varied. Having a social media footprint allows CSOs to drip feed the public with information on what the organisation stands for hinged on the work that they do. Equally so, employees of CSOs is they lack a digital footprint, they fail to answer publicly to stakeholders how they view the organisation that they work with. The Director of Action Aid Zimbabwe, Joy Mabenge often remarks that “don’t be a none googleable individual (NGI)” when challenging civil society actors to have a strong digital footprint.

Not leaving behind communities

There is always a risk that CSOs can be a barrier to change by speaking on behalf of affected communities. Rather, CSOs must empower communities to own, articulate and drive the change they want to see. To counter this risk, at ZELA we piloted the community data extractors programme in 2015, which included a component on community journalism. Basically, the community data extractors programme seeks to empower community monitors with skills to extract, analyse and use data to cement their demands for change in the management of mineral resources in their localities. Tunatazama, administered by Bench Marks Foundation, a networking platform for communities affected by mining operations in Southern Africa, is anchored by stories generated from the community monitors that ZELA works with in Zimbabwe.

The likes of Sophia Takuva, a woman artisanal and small-scale miner have become powerful social media influencers through blogs and twitter. For example, using her twitter account, Sophia boldly challenged lack of transparency and accountability in the management of the gold mobilisation funds set aside for women miners. Remarkably, this set the stage for engagement with Fidelity Printers and Refiners (FPR), who administer the gold mobilisation fund. FPR refuted the allegations, arguing that there is more to the challenges that affect women miners than financial inclusion. Challenges raised include access to mineral rights, and violence among others.

This is not a full view, but an interesting angle, nonetheless.

My experiences do not represent a full picture of why and how CSOs must grow their social media footprint but an interesting angle, nonetheless. I am sharing my experiences, to show that one does not need to be a media professional to be able to document and write articles for public consumption. Social media has lowered the barrier of communication and revolutionised the roles at work. From my experience, the burden on communicating and influencing mineral resource governance issues is not for the communications officer alone to carry. With curiosity, passion and commitment, every professional can be a social media influencer. In this work, we must labour hard to ensure community data journalism drives the advocacy agenda. CSOs must not speak on behalf if the affected but motivate communities to tell their own stories.

Lockdown not a time for CSOs to hibernate, but reflect and be creative

Despite posing many challenges, the lockdown, a move to stem the spread of COVID 19, must not lead to the hibernation of civil society actors. Under these difficult times, the lock down delivers a rare opportunity for civil society actors to deeply reflect and explore ways of achieving greater impact on the socio-economic justice front.

Several articles have been generated, all making a compelling case on how poor, but resource rich African countries are incapacitated to respond to fight COVID 19. Most of the articles concur, developed countries are struggling to cope but it can be an apocalyptic scenario for poor African countries.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) in its report warns “malnutrition and disease means COVID-19 could be more deadly in Africa than elsewhere in the world. And health systems in Africa have limited capacity to absorb the pandemic.”

All this evinces that civil society has a mountain to climb in its quest to ensure benefits from extractives cushion citizens from pandemics like COVID. Already, Mukasiri Sibanda, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA)’s Economic Governance Officer argued in his blog “without brushing off Chinese Aid, where is money from our mineral wealth going?”

Because now is the time to reflect and explore, one area we believe civil society in Zimbabwe can leverage to increase transparency in the governance of extractives, is effective engagement with the office of Registrar of Companies. The Registrar of Companies registers companies and other business entities with a responsibility of making sure companies comply with the Companies and Other Business Entities Act.

More often, emphasis on revenue transparency overshadows the need to understand the DNA of behind mining activities. No wonder why the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global standard that elevates open and accountable management of the oil, gas and mineral sector embraced public Beneficial Ownership (BO) registry in its new standard. This goes beyond the numbers. The thrust is about telling a story of the real people who hide behind corporate masks to unfairly benefit through corruption and illicit financial flows.

Importantly, Zimbabwe which appears to have shut its doors on EITI, included a BO registry under the new Companies and Other Business Entities Act. Government’s move on BO registry was necessitated by the desire to comply with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) directives on curbing money laundering and finance for terrorism. A major challenge with the new BO requirement in Zimbabwe is that the BO register is not open to the public, note Anna Sophie Hobbi in her blog post Joyce Nyamukanda, Publish What You Pay Campaign (PWYP) campaign coordinator laments that “Space is closed for civil society to pivot the BO register for accountability purpose when the register is confidential.”

Interestingly, there are data morsels from the Registrar of Companies which the public can digest to improve the advocacy diet for the transparency and accountability in the mining sector. Such an initiative, perhaps, can help to mend the wheels of Publish What You Pay (PWYP) campaign in Zimbabwe. Government’s timid efforts on joining EITI has punctured the campaign.

What is even worse is that the mining transparency framework has not been aligned to the Constitution. Information which the campaign can feed on from the Registrar of Companies’ offices include company details of directors and physical address. On the surface, such information appears to be of less use on fuelling accountability demands. But a close and keen eye can unearth advocacy opportunities from such data.

Because a company is not a natural person, but a juristic person, its intelligences are its directors. Knowing the names of the directors enables civil society and communities to understand the identity of the company’s aspiration, motives and ethics. Knowing and understanding the person making decisions creates avenues for engagement. Such avenues include exploiting social capital, for instance, at church, sports club or bar.

A human touch to the struggle is important. If the director goes to the church, this is an opportunity to reach out to the pastor, for example, to bring out community concerns against the company he or she directs. Knowing the directors of a company shifts gears on engagement with the mining company which is largely focused on the management or other lower level employees.  The management is accountable to the directors who have a fiduciary duty to protect the interest of the company.

By profiling the directors of a company, civil society and communities can gain intel whether the directors have strong political ties or government officials are involved. Pending before the courts is a case in which the former deputy minister of higher education procured computers from a company he directed together with his daughters. What this case proves is, at times, without digging deeper, corruption red flags can easily be raised by gleaning simple publicly available records.

ZELA piloted this work in Mutoko and Marange under its community data extractors project. Malvern Mudiwa, from Marange Development Trust (MDT) made interesting observations after his interactions with the office of the Registrar of Companies in Harare. Malvern explained that “it is costly for a community member to travel to Harare to access the office of the Registrar of Companies.”

He argues “it is important community-based organisations (CBOs) to rely on official documents to cement advocacy initiatives with credible data rather than relying on hearsay.” His regrets were “we failed to access the any details on Mbada diamonds.”

Failure to access documents which are supposed to be publicly available can be an advocacy asset. It is a clear demonstration of the gaps between the law and practice. If such evidence is harvested from different communities and made public, it can jolt the Registrar of Companies into action as she/he becomes increasingly aware the office is being watched publicly.

For companies that are directly listed locally or international like Zimplats, the details of directors can be accessed from their websites. The challenge is that they are very few listed companies operating in Zimbabwe and the bulk of which do not have their own websites. This is also another research opportunity for community data extractors.

Aside from opportunities associated from accessing details of directors, knowing the physical address of the mining company civil society or communities want to engage with is also critical in many ways. A mere glance of the physical premise of the head office of the company can tell a lot in terms of the integrity of the company we are dealing with.

Obviously, we must not loose track of the old wisdom – don’t judge a book by its cover. It can be possible that a company may not be operating at the registered premise or have no legible name of the company at their premises. Simple walk in at the company head office can also create space for civil society actors and communities interact with the top management of the companies. The top management of several mining companies may not be operating at the mining site, but head quartered in big towns like Harare or Bulawayo.

From Malvern’s experiences, community data extractors must be empowered by PWYP to interact with the office of the Registrar of Companies, document their stories on how hard or easy it is to access the data.

Further, community data user stories can be generated to pick and reflect on variety of experiences from different community data extractors. PWYP is in the process of recruiting more members especially from Matebeleland and Midlands provinces. Having a clear value proposition, for instance, work members can do can help to manage expectations and reduce conflicts associated with workshopping opportunities.

COVID 19 is certainly causing mayhem for now, but civil society and communities must be forward thinking. Undoubtedly, strategies to mitigate the COVID 19 are critical. However, they must not drain the focus on the bigger picture. The Punctured PWYP campaign in Zimbabwe must using the lockdown opportunity to find innovative ways to mend its advocacy wheels. ZELA’s community data extractors programme, which drew energy from PWYP international offers interesting learning points for the campaign.

Without brushing off Chinese Aid, where is the money from our mineral wealth going?

It seems like the donation made by the Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, has given an adrenaline shot to government’s efforts to control the scourge of coronavirus. Without brushing off the significance of Jack Ma’s act of kindness to Africa and other parts of the world, in Zimbabwe, the knowledge that without this aid, we had nowhere to start is quite scary. If you want to look for evidence of resource curse, then look no further than this story of a country endowed with vast mineral wealth, with no internal capabilities to protect its citizens against pandemics. Yes, we have seen developed countries like Italy and Spain getting overwhelmed by coronavirus. So, one can argue easily, what more can a developing country like Zimbabwe do? At the surface, this line of thinking is compelling. Yet if we dig deeper, Zimbabwe has in the past struggled to contain medieval diseases like cholera. This is a country endowed with second largest known platinum deposits in the whole world after South Africa. Under explored, Zimbabwe has over 40 known mineral deposits like gold, lithium, diamonds and chrome. Even though annual surveys on investment attractiveness of mining sector jurisdictions conducted by Fraser Institute of Canada find our policy framework repugnant, they rate us highly on geological potential. Underlisted are critical points for government, industry and citizens to reflect on mineral resource governance reforms that are fundamental to safeguard the welfare of Zimbabweans,

  • We cannot think of any better way to show that mining can deliver sustainable benefits to communities where resources are extracted than ring fencing mineral tax revenue to fight corona virus. After all, the Constitution, on national development issues, impels the State to put mechanisms to ensure communities benefit from resources in their localities. When a capital city, Harare, has no capacity whatsoever to handle corona virus, what more of remote, marginalized but resource rich rural areas like Marange.
  • Government has a plan to grow annual earnings to US12 billion per year by 2023. An impressive figure constantly punctuating speeches delivered by policy makers. Just to placate the public, government isn’t rudderless on economic challenges, there is light at demise of Mugabe. Export earnings from mining are meaningless to citizens if figures for tax revenues to finance service delivery are unknown. Exactly why government must follow up on its commitment to join the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). Globally, EITI is regarded as benchmark for promoting open and accountable governance of oil, gas and mineral sector. Nearly half (24) of EITI implementing countries are in Africa, and in the SADC region, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania and DRC are part of this initiative.
  • Transparency is a genuine indicator for government that seeks to turn the corner under the mantra that “Zimbabwe is open for business” that government real means business. When deals are negotiated in secrecy, the International Council of Mines and Mining Development (ICMM) cautions on Minerals Taxation Regimes, the playing field becomes uneven, companies seek to bargain more. Corruption easily festers in such an environment. Our Constitution is clear, an Act of Parliament is required to guide negotiation and performance of mining agreement under Section 315 (2) (c) in order to promote transparency, honesty, cost-effectiveness and competitiveness. Therefore, all mega mining deals signed by government must be made public to nourish citizens with information on how the deals are constructed to deliver optimal benefits to citizens.
  • The focus on mining sector benefit sharing in these hard times of the coronavirus pandemic intensifies easily because minerals are a finite natural resource, if they deplete without contributing to the welfare of citizens, then, we begin to question, where is the money going.
  • This is an opportunity for a rethink of the whole mineral resource governance framework. How far has Zimbabwe aligned its mining policies and laws with the Africa Mining Vision? A blueprint adopted by African Head of States and Government in 2009. AMV envisages “Transparent, equitable and optimal exploitation of mineral resources to underpin broad-based sustainable growth and socio-economic development”
  • Looking back, on how government faired in the management of the diamond find of the century, Marange diamond fields, we have a US$98 million modern defense college. If these finds were used to invest in modern health facilities, we could have been talking about aid as a complementary rather than being the mainstay support of fighting coronavirus. In 2006 and 2008, government took back platinum claims or mineral rights from Zimplats and Anglo-American owned Unki Mine valued at US$153 million and US$142 million respectively. Recently, we learnt that Mimosa Mines is keen to negotiate with Anglo-American owned Unki Mine to purchase or platinum rights. This proves that if competitive bidding, which is recommended by AMV is followed on disposal of known mineral rights acquired through use it or lose it, mining fiscal linkages can easily be enhanced.
  • Government of Zimbabwe looks up to Rwanda as a success story. It is high time to learn from one of the most famous statements delivered by President Paul Kagame “I would rather argue, that we need to mobilise the mindsets, rather than more funding. After all, in Africa, we have everything we need, in real terms. Whatever is lacking, we have the means to acquire. And yet, we remain mentally married to the idea that nothing can get moving, without external finance.”

Every crisis presents opportunities. From crippled domestic capabilities to respond to the corona virus pandemic, government must rethink on measures to enhance the flow of mining benefits to citizens. Minerals are finite. This cannot be over emphasised. Therefore, we must make hay whilst the sun still shines. Oh, by the way, thunderstorm is already threatening, droughts, cyclone idai, and corona virus have struck us, yet the benefits from mining have been conspicuous. The US$12 billion mining earnings by 2023 does not bring joy to citizens if national benefits like tax revenue that have more to do with their living standards – better health and education remain secretive.

Tooling Parliament For Effective Mineral Resource Governance

By Byron Zamasiya and Mukasiri Sibanda

To better track impact of capacity building work with Parliament on promoting transparency and accountability in the mining sector, Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) jointly agreed with Parliament of Zimbabwe to come up with performance targets. This was agreed during a workshop facilitated by ZELA on Mining Fiscal Transparency and Beneficial Disclosure on Wednesday, 26 February 2020, at a local Hotel in Harare.

Participants included; the Registrar of Companies, legislators from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Mines and Mining Development, and the Budget Finance and Economic Development, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), representatives from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), Media, and Civil Society Coalitions.

In this update, we focus on the action plans that emerged from the workshop, with special emphasis on engaging Parliament to promote mining fiscal transparency and accountability.

Tooling Parliament

Participants who attended the Mining Fiscal Transparency and Beneficial Disclosure Workshop  

CSOs are doing a tremendous job in building the capacity of Parliamentarians, therefore it is critical that they conduct performance appraisals to continuously evaluate the effectiveness of their interventions on the work being undertaken by legislators. To achieve this, the following points must be taken into consideration;

  • Parliament Portfolio Committees (PPCs) to share their workplans with CSOs
  • PPCs on Mines to share quarterly performance reports provided by Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.
  • A retreat is required to ensure that performance targets are jointly set out and performance enablers are enhanced.

In the interest of harvesting the low hanging fruits, it was discussed and agreed that the following issues must be raised in Parliament by members of the Portfolio Committee on Mines before the end of March 2020;

  • Progress on implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Government, in 2019, revived its interest in joining EITI, a global standard that seeks to promote transparency and accountability in the oil, gas and mineral sectors. In case government is not keen on implementing EITI, legislators must push government to undertake piecemeal mining sector transparency reforms as required by the Constitution. For example, an Act of Parliament is required to guide negotiation and performance of mining agreemens (Section 315 (2) (c) to promote transparency, host, cost effectiveness and competitiveness.
  • Clear milestones are required for the computerization of the mining cadastre. Points to consider: How can a government that seeks to achieve US$12 billion annual earnings from the mining sector by 2023 fail to provide US$2 million for the modernization of the mining cadastre? Foreign currency shortages cannot be used as an excuse because over 60 cents per every dollar generated from exports comes from the mining sector. It is therefore imperative that Government ploughs back foreign currency earned from mining into infrastructure development which enhances the performance of the mining sector like the mining cadastre. Legislators can go a step further to check foreign currency expenditures by government especially foreign trip to make a case for poor prioritization.
  • Monitor whether financial statements and annual reports for mining State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) have been submitted within two months after the end of each financial year to the OAG as required by the Public Financial Management Act (Section 49). Parliament must not wait for OAG’s report which must be produced within six months after the end of each financial year to sift information on which SOE has defaulted on timely submission of annual reports for audit.
  • Performance appraisal of Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPOs) is necessary. Legislators must ask the Minister to submit a register of EPOs, with progress reports evaluated against agreed plans.

Aside from the targets set for legislators, the following action points targeted at CSOs were agreed;

  • Legal advice on implementation of the “use it or lose it” principle under the current Mines and Minerals Act is need.
  • Engage Parliamentarians on social media or through physical meetings to support them as they prepare for Wednesday Parliament sitting, caucas meetings and ask pointed questions on mining governance issues.
  • CSOs must build the capacity of the committee members to scrutinize and hold the Ministry accountable based on quarterly performance reports submitted to Parliament.

A perfect tone was set by Honourable Anele Ndebele immediately after the end of the workshop.  Speaking in Parliament, Hon Anele Ndebele raised questions on transparency and accountability related to EPOs.

 “… I notice the Deputy Minister of Mines is here present. It is a fact that we are all aspiring towards a US12 billion per year annual budget from mining sector. I therefore wish to invite the Minister of Mines to bring to this house an update on mining sector performance.  Secondly, I wish that the Minister on the same day to bring register of all EPOs by area in this country and also make an indication of the companies that are involved in the EPOs. Finally Mr Speaker, the law so demands that at least every six months, we must have a record of how the EPOs are performing ….. we need to track how they are performing

Who wins if Zim joins EITI?

RECENT news, which the government has not disputed, suggested that Zimbabwe is not keen on joining the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). By joining EITI, the mining sector — the main engine for economic growth, would have been opened for citizens to question government and industry on how past and current mining deals are best tailored to contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In October last year, the government launched a blueprint to grow mining sector earnings by 344% to US$12 billion in 2023, up from just US$2,7 billion earned in 2017.

Based on past records and the plunder on Marange diamonds citizens have, however, become sceptical that the envisaged mining sector growth will revamp education and health services.

What the country needs is a framework like the EITI to help surface issues, bring sectors together and build trust among them so that they all come up with solutions together.

Given lack of traction on joining EITI, it is pertinent to reflect on the potential governance gains associated with implementation of EITI. Who wins if Zimbabwe joins EITI?

Winner: Government

According to the Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Zimbabwe continues to perform badly when it comes to fighting corruption.

With a total score of 24 over 100, Zimbabwe is lowly ranked 158 out of 180 countries by the CPI. Fighting corruption is on the top of government’s agenda; but the public remains sceptical, though.

Joining the EITI will not increase transparency overnight, but it will help the government manage the extractives sector in a more inclusive and transparent manner. Raising transparency will also help minimise speculations and distrust towards the government.

Winner: Host communities, civil society and organizations (CSOs)

Zimbabwe has a lot to work when it comes to citizen engagement. According to the World Governance Index 2017 edition, Zimbabwe scored -1,196 when it came to the “Voice and Accountability” indicator which indicates weak performance.

By joining the EITI, mining communities and CSOs earn a platform to access information and constructively engage with companies and the government.

For a government that seeks to rebrand as a “New Dispensation” and breaking away from old habits of keeping citizens in the dark on mining deals, joining EITI is critical to winning doubters.

Winner: Mining investors, companies

While Zimbabwe was not ranked lowest when it comes to the Mining Investment Attractiveness Index 2018 of the Fraser Institute, it also fares badly on Policy Perception Index compiled by the same institute.

The Investment Attractiveness Index blends mineral wealth potential and policy attractiveness. Joining the EITI can become a game changer for the country as it aims to open the country for business to attract more investments into the mining sector.

Transparency helps level the playing field and ensure that no affiliate of those in power gets more favourable mining contracts. By supporting transparency initiatives, investors can freely compete with one another regardless of affiliation.

It also makes doing business in Zimbabwe less riskier for international investors who are bound by laws on foreign corrupt practices like those in the US and Australia.

Should Zimbabwe join the EITI?

A country like Zimbabwe, whose economy is dependent on its vast mineral wealth, embracing EITI is a critical building block to curb corruption, prove the seriousness of the agenda to open Zimbabwe for business, and to regain public confidence and trust.

Regressive elements in government will always find excuses not to open up the mining sector for public scrutiny.

To prove that this is a new dispensation, actions should speak louder than words. Joining EITI can show that the government is walking the talk.

Transparency and challenging path to accountability, lessons from Gwanda community

Giant strides, in the past decade, have been made by Publish What You Pay (PWYP) campaign to improve the extractive sector transparency landscape world over. The results are quite telling. 51 countries are now implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) – a global best practice on promoting open and accountable management of the extractive sector. In addition to EITI, Canada, EU and Norway now have mandatory disclosure rules which compel extractive companies listed in their jurisdictions to disclose payments made to local, regional and national governments per project per country. With all this progress, focus is shifting to how citizens and civil society are making use of disclosed information to improve development, fight inequality and strengthen accountability.

lTo confront this conundrum or challenge, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), Gwanda Residents Association (GRA) and Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Canada are currently working on a joint study, assessing the impact of Caledonia’s Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA) reports in Gwanda district, Matebeleland South province of Zimbabwe. The focus of this article is to share preliminary findings from the field study which was conducted last week in Gwanda, 22 to 26 January.

“I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand” Confucius.

One of the main challenges when collecting and analysing data from communities on development issues is to ensure community ownership and buy in of the whole process. A challenge we tried to mitigate by deliberately working together with community-based organisations to conduct key informant interviews (KIIs), Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and to assess emerging patterns from the collected data. We worked with Gwanda Residents Association, Gwanda Economic Justice Network Community Trust (GEJNCT), and Gwanda Youth in Mining. With GRA, we went a step further and we are working together on compilation of research. The benefits are mutual. Working with community-based organisations (CBOs) enabled us to have a more nuanced understanding of the local context, to leverage existing relationships to strengthen participation and to overcome the language barrier risks. Working with the CBOs on this study was also a mechanism to do on the job training for research skills. Before we started the data collection, we spent a half day going through the conceptual framework for the research to check for blind spots together with CBOs.

Gwanda not benefiting fairly from mining activities: mixed reactions

To try and loosen up the conversation on assessing the impact of Caledonia Mining Corporation’s ESTMA reports, we sought to find out the general perceptions of residents on their take concerning mining contribution to local development. Generally, most people interviewed were clear that Gwanda is not benefiting from mining activities. There was wide acknowledgement that Gwanda Community Share Ownership Trust (GCSOT) has made noticeable strides to improve health and education services, an achievement made during the first years of its operations. Communities now barely see the contribution of GCSOT on improving local service delivery. The GCSOT administrator concurred with the observations, and further explained “GCSOT has shifted its focus on local social service provision to support income generating projects to address sustainability concerns. We have not abandoned altogether the thrust to improve service delivery.” Whilst most interviewed people in Gwanda rural lamented little benefits from mining activities, they acknowledged GCSOST’s tangible contribution to local service provision – health, education and water infrastructure. A striking observation is that few people interviewed outside Gwanda knew that interventions made by the GCSOT were funded through dividends from the mining companies.

The opposite is true for residents in Gwanda town. They are clear that mining companies, Caledonia’s Blanket mine particularly, finance the operations of GCSOT. Residents of Gwanda town are not happy that they are directly affected by the impacts of mining activities due to their proximity to the town, yet they are excluded from the benefits of the GCSOT which is focused on rural development.

Upon seeing the payments made by Blanket mine to Gwanda Rural District Council (RDC), a woman artisanal and small-scale miner (ASMer) remarked “we ASMers are not encouraged to pay taxes to Gwanda RDC as communities are not seeing any development from what is contributed by large scale miners.” This clearly demonstrates the far-reaching consequences of how a lack of transparency and accountability in the management and utilisation of mineral revenue can impact on domestic resource mobilisation buy in.

Transparency matters according to communities

Virtually all respondents solidly agreed that transparency in the mining sector is crucial. Several respondents were clear that transparency matters to them because the gold being mined is owned by the communities and they want to know the details of how much is gold is extracted, value realised, royalties, taxes and levies paid, what is received by various government institutions and how the mining revenue is spent since it impacts not only this generation but future generations.

“Leaders must be just as transparent as companies.”

Only a few demanded to know the terms and conditions for the mining agreements so that they could check if the deals were well negotiated to deliver on local development and for monitoring purposes as well. There was limited reference though to the Constitution. Only one respondent revealed that access to information is guaranteed under Section 62 of the Constitution, therefore, public access to information on mining is their right. There was no reference to other constitutional provisions like Section 298 (1) on principles of public financial management which calls for transparency and accountability in all public financial matters. Transparency and accountability during negotiation of mining agreements and for performance monitoring purposes is provided under Section 315 (2) (c) of the Constitution.

Another pattern that emerged from the KIIs and FGDs was that transparency is critical to build public trust and confidence among stakeholders – mining companies, government and civil society. Several allegations were raised mainly against Blanket mine which were hinged on transparency issues.

“The gold mined by Blanket Mine is used to develop Canada, we want the gold to be sold in Zimbabwe and proceeds used to develop this country.”

“We heard that some people from Canada visited Gwanda to see the mine which is behind the development of their country.”

“Gold is sold in foreign currency, we want to know if Blanket mine is paying dividends to GCSOT in foreign currency as well as local tax payments to Gwanda RDC.”

“We do not know how much gold is produced, how much is earned, and taxes paid by Blanket Mine.”

“If the Blanket Mine achieves record gold production and with the gold price soaring, does this mean more dividends to the community trust and taxes paid to government?”

Even though they are several large-scale mines operating in Gwanda, largely, the focus of respondents was on Blanket mine, because of its leadership role in gold production and recent media coverage. From the above comments or questions on Blanket mine’s opaque operations, effectively, it can be discerned that transparency is not only about disclosure but making data to be more accessible and easily palatable for communities. This is so because Blanket Mine on its notice boards displays monthly its performance data related to tonnage milled, gold recovered, gold price, earnings, profits and bonuses paid. Further, Caledonia’s ESTMA reports available online reveal various payments made to government institutions on annual basis. The company is also listed at the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), therefore, it is compelled to public release its operational and financial performance data which is available online. On paper, you can hardly ask for more from such as mining company, especially in Zimbabwe, a country that is not part of EITI, so the data produced by Blanket mine is gold. The main challenge though is, the company is failing to make use of transparency as a currency to engage with communities, build public trust and confidence. Civil society organisations (CSOs) have been found wanting on making data as widely accessible and easily understood by the communities.

Gwanda ESTMA FDG

Figure 1: Following the focus group discussion, participants discuss how to find ESTMA data online at www.resourceprojects.org

According to Gwanda CSOT administrator, when Blanket mine achieves record gold production, dividends paid to the community trust also spike. However, since GCSOT received an advance dividend payment of USD4 million as seed capital, the dividends are used to offset this loan and interest that has accrued – it was mentioned that the loan will likely take another 12-15 years to pay off.

Transparency alone is not enough, communities want to see clinics, schools and roads

There was special emphasis by communities that transparency is only a first step – what is critical is to see the development impact stemming from taxes paid by mining companies. Even though we are not sure that the companies are paying their fair share of taxes, it is important to see development from the little resources that are being paid.

Respondents had a wider view of transparency beyond mineral revenue. There was also interest in employment data, to see how many locals were employed and push for preferential local labour recruitment. Another area of interest was openness of procurement to enhance the development of community enterprise development, for example, provision of catering services, personal protective equipment, and security services. Additionally, some respondents mentioned they wanted to understand safety procedures that are in place to protect employees, how minerals are process, how waste is disposed, the environmental impacts of the mine’s operations, and the CSR investments that are made (since these may be exempted from paying taxes).

Gwanda Bridge

Figure 2: Bridge that leads from Gwanda to Blanket Mine.

Community members lamented about how the bridge has weathered with heavy use by trucks from mines, and described challenges of flooding. When it floods, respondents described how people cannot get to work, children cannot get to school, and pregnant women and those that are ill cannot reach the hospital.

Devolution can provide answers to the mismatch of impact of mining activities and poor local economic and social development

From majority of the key informant interviews, the demand for devolution, to enable provincial and district structures to have more control, responsibility and power to participate in decision making processes was echoed. A notion which firmed up more when the respondents noted after being shown Caledonia’s ESTMA reports that local government received a meagre share of revenues compared to central government. For example, in 2018, Blanket Mine paid a total of US$5,227,855 to various government institutions out of which the local government, GRDC received a 2.77% share which amounted to US$144 760. This evidence shows that despite having constitutional powers to mobilise revenue through taxes and levies, Section 276 (2) (b), resource rich local governments struggle to get a fair share of mineral tax revenue.

Caledonia ESTMA report 2016

Figure 3: Re-printed from Caledonia Mining Corporation 2018 ESTMA Report (https://www.caledoniamining.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Extractive-Sector-Transparancy-Measures-Act.pdf)

For Ward 22 which host the key gold mines, Blanket and Vumbachikwe, a key informant interview showed a clear demand that revenue sharing arrangements between the host community and the local government are needed. “We want to get an allocation from what the local government receives from mining companies operating in our Ward. That way, the host communities can be guaranteed of getting some benefits from the mining activities in their area.”

ESTMA data must inspire domestic legal reforms to enhance transparency in the mining

Upon seeing the ESTMA data, several respondents were clear that Zimbabwe must have legal reforms which delivers on open and transparent management of the mining sector. They indicated that this should include a requirement for all companies operating in Zimbabwe to disclose information including production, revenues, and the payments made to governments as well as compel local authorities to share how these revenues are used.

What it takes to make data more accessible

“The biggest challenge is that communities do not know this data exists.”

One of the key research questions was how to make Caledonia’s ESTMA data more accessible and easily palatable for women, youths, and men. Responses varied it was suggested that fact sheets, newsletters, newspapers, radio, ward level local information hubs, WhatsApp groups, twitter, Facebook, and meetings should be used to achieve wider distribution of information. There was emphasis that the fact sheets should have figures and explanatory notes in local languages. As for the meetings, the suggestions were that local accountability structures at village and ward levels must be utilised to ensure wider sharing and greater usage of the Caledonia’ ESTMA reports. One councillor lamented that “…the local planning structures are not effective because they lack information which is useful to effectively plan for development which is hinged on mining revenue…”. It was also mentioned that community-based organisations can be a key channel for information.

It was also revealed that due to lower levels of education, women need more attention when it comes to understanding the meaning of various payments made to government institutions by Blanket mine. Traditional beliefs in the area have not prioritised the girl child when it comes to education. The impact of early child marriage was noted but its severity could not be established. Another important factor as to why the transparency drive must be women focused was that because of their care giving role, they are more affected by service delivery challenges compared to men and they further cannot travel as far for meetings given the many responsibilities. Channels to share information are important and should consider how best to reach women in the community. It was emphasized however by a number of respondents that men and women should get the information in the same way so that they can share the information together, and the information source will not be challenged.

It is a struggle to take the next steps to demand accountability based on ESTMA data

Majority of the Community Based Organisations (CBOs) showed knowledge of Caledonia’s ESTMA which was gained through workshops organised by ZELA. Only one CBO, Gwanda Residents Association (GRA) gave an account of how they have tried to use ESTMA data to demand accountability. Using ESTMA data, GRA followed the money paid to Gwanda Rural District Council (GRDC) and to the Rural Electrification Agency (REA). GRDC management confirmed awareness of the reports but councillors lacked awareness of the reports. Further, GRDC was not keen on discussing opportunities and challenges hinged on disclosure of Caledonia’s ESTMA data. After GRA approached REA, the agency asked them where they accessed the data and general lack of awareness on the contributions made by mining companies in Gwanda to RDC. Beyond this engagement, GRA has yet to follow-up to attempt to assert its right to this information, as outlined in the Constitution.

“When information is limited on what you can do, you are limited.”

Artisanal and small-scale miners have their own version of transparency

Apart from revenue transparency, opacity in the allocation of mining claims especially tributes from large scale gold mines like Blanket mining was also topical according to majority of the respondents. A mining tribute is a result of the allocation of a mineral right or a claim to a third party in exchange of a fee, an arrangement the is recognised under the Mines and Minerals Act. There were strong allegations that senior politicians are the main beneficiaries of lucrative tributes from large gold mining companies in Gwanda. ASMers clearly expressed disappointment that as the largest contributors of gold deliveries to government, automatically they contribute significantly to royalties, but the plough back in producing communities is lacking. In Gwanda, infrastructure deficits, poor road and power networks are hampering productivity of ASMers.