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AUDITOR GENERAL’s REPORT ON ZIMBABWE CONSOLIDATED DIAMOND COMPANY (ZCDC) HAUNTS MARANGE COMMUNITY

10 July, 2021

The Office of Auditor General (OAG) report of year ending 2019 came at the right time when the government of Zimbabwe is clamoring for a vision of an upper middle- income economy by 2030. As always anticipated by many, it brought some juicy news, surprises, and some shock as to how the State- Owned Enterprises (SOEs) have been operating. Our interest is the audit for Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC). The Auditor General’s Report revealed the poor procurement standards, failure by ZCDC to properly account for diamond stocks, failure to comply with tender rules on the sale of diamond, failure to account for the amounts that the State-Owned Enterprise (SOEs) is owned by other entities among other issues. These issues raise red flags on its governance systems. There is a huge possibility that something could have been happening which points to leakages of diamond revenue.  

The consolidation of diamond companies in Chiadzwa brought hopes to people who were disappointed by the failure of previous diamond companies to bring community development and improve social service delivery in the area. The Zimbabwe Mining Diamond Corporation (ZMDC) gave birth to ZCDC and the government’s main drive for establishing ZCDC was to ensure transparency, accountability and optimal commercial exploitation and marketing of Zimbabwe’s diamonds. The community members and the nation at large thought mismanagement of diamond revenue as was witnessed in the previous era, where US$ 15 Billion was alleged to have been lost, would never be repeated with the government at the helm of diamond mining value chain. However, the revelations from the recently released Auditor General’s report on SOEs) proved the people otherwise. The report revealed glaring loopholes in how the nation’s wealth is being managed by the diamond mining giant.

The Auditor General’ report raised loopholes in procurement systems of ZCDC and heightened red flags on Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) and this is a sad scenario for a community that is looking forward to receiving developmental benefits from diamond mining in Marange. There is anger in people whose hopes of benefiting from Chiadzwa diamond are fading away year in and year out.  It goes to support the Chiadzwa community’s assertion that, they benefitted more from the diamond during the diamonds rush period in 2006 better known by locals as “bvupfuwe” (abundance period). Their lives changed for the better. The formal diamond mining seems to indicate that it brought misery and more poverty to the locals. This revelation sets a bad precedent to other mining companies given that it is a SOE). Its formation in 2015 was mainly premised on the need to sanity into diamond mining sector. What is being revealed by the Auditor General’s Report is a proof that ZCDC is failing to live up to its standards and intended mandate.  In 2018, the government made a move to parcel out part of ZCDC’s diamond fields to other mining companies and this was after the government observed that ZCDC had capacity issues. This latest audit report seems to substantiate the observations by government.    

ZCDC is primarily domiciled in Chiadzwa where it does its operations. Already, there are pending projects that need to be completed besides the others eagerly anticipated by Communities. The road to Chiadzwa is in a dilapidated state and a few public vehicles still use that road making the area inaccessible. Most people now prefer to use the Hot springs route when coming to town, which is longer and more expensive.  The heavy vehicles of the mining companies have further damaged the company and do not care to construct the road. The former ZCDC chief executive officer Mr de Preto once agreed that ” it was high time the people of Chiadzwa witness meaningful development through various projects initiated by the company”. Here, we are in 2021, the community is yet to access meaningful benefits from the diamond endowment. In fact, the hopes of getting meaningful benefits from Chiadzwa’s diamonds are fading away  

While the past acts of mismanagement of previous funds as revealed by past audit reports of ZCDC’s predecessor, ZMDC may have been avoided, this current case sends tongues wagging.  For how long the communities and Mutare rural district council continue missing their benefits from diamond mining? The results of the Auditor General’s report comes at a time when the company has been recording persistent losses a situation that has been incapacitating the company to pay dividends to government and fund community development. The education system could have been uplifted by constructing classroom blocks, furnishing the schools with furniture and books or drilling boreholes, but not much was done other than doing renovations of few classroom blocks. The company made a promise to build classroom blocks at Rombe Primary school. However, it is now 5 years after this promise was made and there is not much meaningful progress. Apparently, school children are now walking more than 5 kilometers to and from home.

There isn’t many socio -economically valuable projects that the company has accomplished since its operations began in 2016. Health facilities remain poor with women and girls walking about 10km to and fro to access clinics. The most disheartening situation is that the clinic doesn’t have basic supplies most of the time. There are no ambulances at clinics and with the state of roads in most cases, sick people get stuck on the road when they are in dire and immediate need of health care and as such complications and deaths in some instances are the order of the day.  After all health is a basic right as provided in Section 76 of the Constitution (Zimbabwean Constitution of 2013). There are 21 clinics in the district, and all need some facelift. They are short staffed, and medicines and drugs are not enough. According to Mutare Rural district council official, ZCDC has of late not been honoring its mandate of paying their taxes timeously”.

 We have missed opportunities to grow and develop economically as a nation through Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) in the diamond sector. According to Malvin Mudiwa of Marange Development Trust, a community -based organization in Marange, ” The figures indicated in the report i are a wakeup call for communities to guide jealously on how their resources are being managed. It can be an indicator that fraud could have taken place “.

Community beneficiation remains a topical issue in Chiadzwa. This word is often used by politicians and some ZCDC officials without much care. It is with much hope that the dusty roads leading to Chiadzwa be attended to including their bridges. Apparently, the public transporter ZUPCO is shunning the 50 kilometers road because it’s not fit for use by bigger coaches. This has left the community at the mercy of private transporters who charge exorbitant fares. With the Covid 19 restrictions in place, this has made it difficult to travel. As a precautionary measure, the company is alleged to have been using soil to cover potholes and this does not last a distance. The roads simply need resurfacing since they were destroyed by Cyclone Idai in 2019. The community expects the resurfacing of the road because it regularly used by the mining companies.

Communities have a right to voice concern about the way funds are handled given that resources are found in their area. Section 13 (4) of the Constitution provides that communities must benefit from their mineral resources in their respective areas. ZCDC being a state entity is obliged to timely release their audited annual reports  for public scrutiny . While for the first time they have done so (for its 2016, 2017 and 2018 financial  it is worrying to note that they have been reporting losses for the past three years. According to Mr Chiadzwa, one of the traditional leaders, ” the company has been operating for 24 hours a day since consolidation. If they are not making profits why not stop?”  For sure the company invested more than a billion in the procurement of equipment imported from Belarus and the expectation was that this would translate into profits and revenue flows to government and local authorities. However, the results on the ground indicate otherwise.   We are not sure if the company’s performance in 2021 will improve. In 2020, the company indicated that they had about 2 million carats of diamond stock which was waiting for the market. We are not sure if these stocks changed the trajectory of the company’s financial performance in 2020.  We are in 2021 and the company has not yet published its audited annual financial statement for 2020.

While ZCDC claims to have carried a couple of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), this has not been justified in the eyes of the locals. For example, In 2018 the company built a state of art vegetable market mall in Sakubva. The company also donated some food hampers and agricultural input to some community members in Arda Transau and Marange end of 2018. To them this is far from meaningful development in their area. The families relocated to Arda Transau are going for several weeks without drinking water yet the company can simply drill approximately 100 boreholes to save the situation. A recent visit to Chirasika primary school revealed that some pupils were learning in disused wooden cabinets at the school. They have even gone on to do a makeshift wooden block to accommodate all local pupils. Proper management of the diamond revenue would have gone a long way to change fortunes of the community. According to a study by Veronica Zano and Joyce Machiri ,” Companies must invest in infrastructure ( portable water, electricity, schools, roads, hospitals), building social capital and human capital…” . They reiterated that there is ” need to instill public confidence in public institutions”.

It is quite unfortunate that Zimunya Marange Community Share Ownership Trust, an organization formed to spearhead development in the area has literally failed to live to their expectations. The last time they were given $5million United States dollars by ZCDC, the funding failed to make any meaningful impact due to different reasons. Among them was administrative bungling, change in currency exchange policy and procrastination. To show that the people of Chiadzwa are not a happy lot, they were once involved in a series of demonstrations. The company only rescued the situation by coming up with a Diamond security Indaba which to date has not meaningfully brought the intended progress to the community.

Conclusion

It is high time that ZCDC takes the needs of the people into consideration lest the community of Chiadzwa will be forced to lash out and demand the mining activities be stopped until a time the Government and mining companies are willing to ensure there is community beneficiation. The previous sporadic demonstrations in 2018 and 2019 should be taken as a key lesson for the company.  The community is aware that there is need to have the social license to operate and the social license to operate can only be obtained if the company addresses community’s demands.

Recommendations

There are several recommendations that can be made to address the challenges being experienced by locals where ZCDC is operating.

Government needs to investigate ZCDC’s mandate and revamp its administration so that there is transparency, accountability and practical will to fulfill its mandate.

  • ZCDC should lead other mining companies by example by paying taxes to Mutare Rural District Council timeously while the money still has value.
  • There is need to establish a Community Forum consisting of all stakeholders that will have meaningful development dialogue from time to time and involve the community in prioritization and development of CSR projects.
  • The mining companies to seek social license to operate
  • There is a great need to close all loopholes leading to Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) by being transparent and accountable in their operations.

 

 

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Zimbabwe’s Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill: What is the status really?

Co-authored by Sandra Musonzah and Billian Matambo

Introduction

Touching base with reality, the silence on the Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill leaves us wondering whether it is ready or long forgotten? The Bill does carry strategic means to unlock the government’s potential to achieve the 12 billion mining industry and greater control over mining hurdles. To jog your memory, Zimbabwe is in the process of reforming the Mines and Minerals Act through the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill. To summarize, the Mines and Minerals Act of 1961 is an outdated legislation with unlimited challenges which have been affecting the ability of the nation to realize maximum mineral resource beneficiation especially for the locals who are operating as artisanal and small-scale miners (ASMers).

The government of Zimbabwe overtime has made various attempts to amend the mining regulatory regime targeting the Mines and Mineral Act these efforts have not led to a final product being gazzeted. The Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill seems to have lost its momentum after years of constantly amending and strengthening it to resolve predominant challenges within the mining value chain. Since 2012 when the Mines and Minerals Act amendment started, the government have preferred to address some of the highlighted mining challenges using alternative means such as through policies and statutory instruments rather than endorsing the proposed Bill into effect. Finalisation and ensuring that the citizens ‘aspirations are incorporated in the Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill will assist in defining shared value and national vision for the mining sector. By addressing cross cutting issues within the extractive sector, set benchmarks within important stakeholders (like community-based organisation, civil society organisation, traditional leaders) to safeguard against unsustainable mining and promote coherence in the laws, policies and the implementing institutions.

Progress in the Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill

Further, the current talk show focus in the mining industry corridors has shifted from the ‘Bill’ to the Statutory Instruments to formalize artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). The soon to be gazetted Statutory Instrument aspires to ensure ASM are registered and enhance their opportunities to benefit from state resources. A great stride and we acknowledge Government’s efforts to some extent in their work to curb resource leakages and environmental challenges which are prevalent. Yet still the formalization of the ASM alone leaves a lot of loopholes to be adequate as we race towards the 12Billion economy, we expect comprehensive legal regulatory frameworks to address ASM related challenges. As community-based organisation (CBOs) we are surprised and shocked about Reserve Bank Governor Dr. John Mangudya ‘s comments this week that a statutory instrument shall be governing requirements for registration of ASM which is currently being crafted. Seems we have already forgotten the Bill which should also recognize ASM. The loophole which still needs to be addressed is that the Mines and Minerals Act does not give recognition to ASM an issue that should be addressed.

 

Importantly, the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Development must not cease pushing for the anticipated legal reforms enshrined within the Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill which also acknowledge ASMers as an important stakeholder to development discourse. The mining bill will also for the first time officially recognize small-scale miners, who produce more than 40 percent of Zimbabwe’s gold output, meaning that their operations will no longer be considered illegal. In addition, for ASM activities to efficiently contribute to sustainable development, they must be integrated into the formal economic system and with a stipulated Constitution legal recognition of ASM in Zimbabwe. The overwhelming informality of the ASM in Zimbabwe requires comprehensive reforms, and definitely the Statutory to be complemented with the Bill.

Key Takeaway

As resource rich communities, we advocate that the new amendment bill formalizes ASMers. This is going to benefit all relevant stakeholders in the whole mineral value chain. Formalization of ASM is going to

1) Close leakages such as illicit financial flows, since the markets will be open to every miner yet still offering competitive prices.

2) The ASM sector is outsmarting Large Scale Miners by almost 100% in terms of the gold delivered to Fidelity Printers and Refiners. This simply means that the country could earn more if legislative reforms are put in place to address formalization of ASM.

3) With formalization comes responsible sustainable mining and sourcing in the ASM sector that will save both the environment and hence healthy and safety of the ASMers who are losing their lives through unmonitored irresponsible mining.

It is also saddening to note that artisanal miners are also under threat from machete gangs especially in the Midlands Province and Mazowe District attributed mainly to claim disputes. We need laws that will permit decentralization of gold buying schemes. We call for the finalization of the Bill since it has the ultimate answer of safeguarding the miners from being used by allegedly complicit powerful politicians who are inciting them against each other through sponsoring machete gangs. The 100 tonne gold output underpinned with the12 Billion target by 2023 can be achieved if authorities put in place friendly mining policies and bills.

Conclusively Zimbabwe’s reluctance to modernize strong legal and policy framework and globally being connected with global best standards limit these positive benefits to come to light.

PRESS STATEMENT ON CHINESE LABOUR PRACTICE IN THE MINING SECTOR

For Immediate Release!        Dated 05/07/2021.

Following the recent Article Of 17 June 202 in which the Chinese embassy and  Sun Yi Feng Public relations officer, Mr Mukumba accused the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and its General Secretary Mr Japhet Moyo of tarnishing the image of the Chinese investors. In their statement they said, “The publications carry single stories from uninformed sources who, rather than being constructive, are more destructive to the image of the company. From the onset, the reports have been influenced by actions of conspiracy as a result of revenge distortion,” the company’s public relations officer, Alex Mukumba said. He expressed disappointment saying ZCTU had been allowed access to the company’s premises on mutual understanding not knowing the labour body had a hidden agenda.”

We would want to make the following statement. The call for the Chinese Embassy to put its investors in order has not started today. In June 2020 ZCTU petitioned the Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Guo Shaochun to whip its members to order for violating labour and human rights, .following the  incident in which a Gweru Chinese businessman, Zhang Xueun shot and injured two employees – Wendy Chikwaira and Kennedy Tachiona – during an ill-fated wage dispute. Therefore, to say the Labour body has a hidden agenda is a low blow by the Company.

As Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Workers Union, we would like to put it on record that we share the same sentiments with ZCTU. ZIDAWU is a registered  organisation working with mining employees,  mining and mining affected communities.  An organisation found by some former workers of Anjin in Chiadzwa after experiencing hardships in violations of human and labour rights. Therefore, the ruthlessness,  ill and degradatory treatment,  underpayment of wages, working long and unpaid overtime, poor accommodation facilities and food are not conditions known through hearsay but experience. Thus, the allegation that ZCTU is uninformed in its claim against the Chinese employers must fall away.

The statement made by ZCTU is true and we intend to lodge a national and  global campaign using the Zimbabwean labour law and ILO standards as it is clear that the firms are not willing to come to table with labour body but rather attack it, and paint it as a” distorted revenge seeker with hidden agendas”   We will not watch from afar while the labour movement gets to be unjustifiably politicised.

LET IT BE KNOWN THAT OUR POLITICS AS TRADE UNIONS IS OF THE STOMACH, AND NOT OF RULING THE COUNTRY, AS EMPLOYEES WE DEMAND DEMOCRACY AT WORKPLACE, RESPECT OF LABOUR AND HUMAN RIGHTS AND NOT TO BE SUBJECTED TO SLAVERY CONDITIONS.

Over decades , trade and labour relations with relations with foreign invsetors has become common place  that the locals’ rights have long since been sold for a dime along with the sold cooperate spaces : mining industry space and other forms of trade. So now our huge predicament is not only in china’s violations of workers’s and general human rights in general but has an undeniably strong bearing on the person(s) who stuck a price tag to our God-given rights. Period!  We have our local Ministers and political big wigs  who enter into ventures with the chinese and are actually  “feeding on proceeds” from the sales of our rights. Thus, the petitions and cry of employees to have their rights respected being adamantly ignored.

The workers at Anjin in Chiadzwa has been at workplace since 2020 Covid 19 Lockdown, working overtime that is erratically paid, with no leave of absence.  Leaving the premises warrants dismissal from work. The employees are being paid at somewhat similar rate irregardless of one’s grade of Work. There is no decent spacious accommodation even as Covid19 restrictions has to be followed. The living conditions of Chinese employees and that of Zimbabwean employees are significantly different. There is discrimination among local and Chinese employees. Any attempts to get hold of Anjin representative are futile as they are said to be in Harare all the time. The bottom line, is the Chinese employees are not complying with the labour laws and that is all that as worker’s representative we demand. We refuse to go back to slavery or to Smith regime. And we reiterate that, our politics is of the Stomach not of ruling the country or of who should invest. NEVER!

Zimbabwe is open for business. However,  Business and human rights aspect should be effectively addressed so that profits are not maximised at the expense of locals. Labels like ” authors of illegal regime change, suborteures of national socio-economic programmes,  treasonous and all that misnoma is old fashioned. We talk of the new dispensation and vision 2030 where all citizens should be treated as Upper middle class and the National Development strategy 1 of 2023 envisions an economy where all citizens will be at hundred percent in earning upper class middle income per household. How do we envision, re-engagement with the International community if that engagement is at the expense of the citizens of Zimbabwe?

We demand fulfilment of the following rights as embodied in Section 65 of the Constitution and the labour Act [Chapter 28:01] and its ammendments.

The right to fair remuneration,

Right to fair labour practices,

Right to safe working environment,

Right of affiliation/ membership to a relevant trade union of choice,

Right to form workers committee/ trade union,

Right to have a works council,

Right to be heard.

SHINGA MUSHANDI SHINGA!

A LUTA CONTINUA!

By Cosmas Sunguro

 ZIDAWU President.

For more information contact: +263772763209.  Email zidawuinfor@gmail.com

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Should Zimbabwean Mining Companies join the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), Community Based Organisations ask?

Compiled by Josphat Makaza (Chiadzwa Community Development Trust)

01 July 2021

The Zimbabwean Government was amongst the participants at the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) held in 2019 in Paris, France. Nearly two years after the convention the government is still struggling and is yet to decide whether to join EITI or not. EITI is an international standard that encourages transparency around the management of revenues from natural resources and meant to improve transparency and accountability. At a recently held conference in Mutare community-based organisations said the failure to domesticate EITI by the government must not be an end to transparency and accountability drive in Zimbabwe. Organised by ZELA and facilitated by Fadzai Midzi the participants at the conference called upon the government to find other means of increasing transparency.

Zimbabwe is working towards Vision 2030 and the 12 billion Mining Industry roadmap hence community-based organisations (CBOs) in Mutare feel that the initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) is the way to go if the Vision 2030 agenda is to become a dream came true for everyone, especially communities. Founded in 2006 by a coalition of nongovernmental organizations, businesses purchasing minerals and metals, affected communities, mining companies and labour unions the IRMA seeks to promote responsible mining. Save Odzi Network Trust (SOCNET) Chairperson Mr Zacheu Nhachi said the framework aligns with what serious governments, investors and communities require. “There are a number of benefits associated with IRMA, that CBOs can benefit from”, he said. Nhachi explained that the concept promotes access to information and public participation in the extractive sector.

 An official from Chiadzwa Community Development Trust (CCDT) said IRMA reduces resource conflict. “If the community understands how local resources are governed then there is no misunderstanding”, he said, adding that there will be trust amongst all stakeholders.   CCDT said the government must welcome this initiative to improve mineral resources governance in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Workers Union (ZIDAWU) President Cosmas Sunguro said the government needs to consider participation of mining companies against IRMAs four principles.” The standard for social responsibility, environmental responsibility, business integrity and planning for positive legacies”. This he said promotes transparency and accountability in the sector whilst improving revenue collection for improved service delivery in Zimbabwe. Malvern Mudiwa of Marange Development Trust (MDT) explained that if we can debate and dialogue with all stakeholders, we will be empowered, and this helps improve CBOs’ advocacy work. Addressing participants Fadzai Midzi highlighted on the benefits of volunteering to be audited against the IRMA standard and being part of the Responsible Mining Map giving examples from the recently Unki IRMA audit report that was released in February 2021 and had since improved the operations and performance of the giant Anglo-American Platinum Mine in Zimbabwe and outside the region.

Mining in Zvishavane

Shurugwi mine gets 7-day ultimatum

Story by Happious Chingwaya (Shurugwi Community Development Trust)

EMA has issued Musasa mining syndicate in Shurugwi with a seven -day ultimatum to rehabilitate the environment after the company started operating without the mandatory environmental impact assessment certificate.

The mine was carrying out illegal alluvial gold mining near Mutevekwi River located just outside the mining town along Shurugwi-Zvishavane highway.

The miner was issued with a level 14 ticket and ordered to rehabilitate the area within seven days.

Over the years, both illegal and legal mining activities along Mutevekwi River have resulted in the blocking of the river with farmers downstream failing to draw water for irrigation purposes.

Mining activities in the mining town have left severe environmental degradation with chemicals used by miners such as mercury and cyanide polluting water bodies.

Some villagers have been complaining about losing their domestic animals to poisonous substances.

Farmer-miner conflicts have also been on the increase in Shurugwi with stakeholders calling for laws that harmonise the two.

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IRMA, A PANACEA TO TRANSPARENCY IN THE DIAMOND SECTOR

12 June 2021

Compiled by Cosmas Sunguro (ZIDAWU)

Transparency and Accountability have been topical issues in mineral resource rich communities for quite some time.

Transparency and accountability come with a need to a commitment from the communities, mining companies and the government. With the government working towards the realization of the 12 billion economies by 2023,[1] transparency remains an important aspect. It is in Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association’s (ZELA) quest to see the realization of improved mineral resources governance. Through its several engagements and capacity building meetings with local communities, Marange community members were motivated  to engage the organisation so that it raises awareness about the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA). The initial workshop to brainstorm the program was held at Musangano Lodge in Mutare from the 10th – 11th of June 2021.

Speaking at the occasion, ZELA’s Fadzai Midzi chronicled the objectives of IRMA and highlighted that it was critical to discuss; How we can effectively utilize IRMA to encourage Responsible Mining, Community Benefit Schemes performance and Community Share Ownership Trusts (CSOT). Lastly, how to come up with a community led audit, drawing lessons from the UNKI mine IRMA audit using the available information.

One would then wonder why IRMA, when Zimbabwe has its own accounting standards and audits that have been done. In the engagements with Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), many a times the communities have been told that some of their requests could not be met since the company is not selling diamonds due to COVID-19. This has somehow derailed the socio-economic development of mining communities and the nation at large bringing uncertainty on the fulfillment of our vision as a nation. However, IRMA has its processes and standards developed by various stakeholders in different countries with the mission of protecting people and the environment directly affected by mining. It also aims at striking a balance between business interests of the company and those of communities. Hence, a company that voluntarily surrenders itself to be audited under IRMA will have created value for itself through accessing market benefit internationally. Thus, once ZCDC is audited against this standard for example, it will appear on the international responsible mining map and will be able to sell its diamonds on the international market and all the struggle for market might be a thing of the past.

Furthermore, as we implement the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1)[2] as a nation the second principle envisages that as the nation makes headway with international re-engagements, national institutions should be capacitated to create an enabling environment critical for transformative economic growth. Thus, as communities we believe that if mining companies, especially ZCDC are audited against the IRMA standard, it will create the desired image and credibility as IRMA provides credible information and assurance that the minerals are extracted responsibly to interested buyers. This may also attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and open markets internationally for it and contributing in trading diamonds at competitive prices.

Also, as IRMA brings all stakeholders in the mining supply chain on the responsible mining map, having our mining site audited according to its standard will open avenues for capacitation in value addition and beneficiation. Thus, promoting the NDS1 principle to accelerate and enhancing investment in mining towards exploration, value addition and beneficiation of minerals. It would also show the nation’s commitment to transparency and accountability as provided in S298 (1)(a) of the Constitution which provides that, “ there must be transparency and accountability in financial matters”.

A closer look to IRMA standard’s principles[3] which are Environmental responsibility, social responsibility, Business integrity and planning and managing positive legacies indicates that it actually uses the available legal frameworks, policies and practices within the country.  Our constitution, section 73 guarantees right to Safe and Clean environment which the IRMA Environmental responsibility aims to achieve by checking if mining companies are complying with local and international environmental laws. Further, section (13) 4 provides for community beneficiation from their natural resources, read together with the mission of IRMA code which is to protect mining communities and environment. Thus, IRMA is more of a complementary to existing laws and not necessarily a foreign legal phenomenon or harmful in any way.

Given the above information, IRMA is more of checking legal compliance of a mining with regards to the local existing laws within the respective principle. It is of paramount importance to note that closer at home we have Unki mine who have been audited by IRMA and they have gone through the process. Whatever the challenges that may arise, we still have greater chances of getting credible lessons from the Unki Mine audit.

ZIDAWU Information Desk

Email: zzidawu@gmail.com

A member of PWYP ZIMBABWE.

[1] https://kubatana.net/2020/07/31/usd-12-billion-mining-economy-by-2023-what-are-the-key-enablers/

 

[2] http://www.zimtreasury.gov.zw/index.php?option=com_phocadownload&view=category&id=64&Itemid=789

[3] https://responsiblemining.net/resources/

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Promoting media partnership in mineral resource governance

The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) supported by OXFAM through DFAT has realised the media’s key role in bringing mass awareness on key environmental justice issues. Bringing together media practitioners drawn from different private and public media houses from the 20th-21st April 2021 to a sensitization and training meeting themed, ‘Media as partners in natural resource governance in Zimbabwe’ has reinvigorated journalists’ passion to act as sources of information, monitor environmental decision-making by government and call for parliamentary oversight in holding the duty bearers accountable.

 

ZELA is celebrating two decades of existence this year. This training of journalists is continuation of the organizational culture of fostering effective media reporting on environmental, economic, social, and cultural rights. Members of the fourth estate were taken through the case studies that portray how natural resource exploitation has in some instances resulted in pollution, forced evictions, lack of transparency which remain some of the key challenges confronting several communities. Balancing the interests of investors against those of the society has been a complex issue that merits an assessment from an environmental and human rights justice perspective coupled with objective reporting of emerging issues.

ZELA also took time to share its several campaigns including the environmental child rights campaign #MyPlanetMyRights. Whilst environmental degradation and human rights violations affect all people, children and youth are particularly vulnerable, due to their evolving physical and mental development and status within society. The impact of environmental degradation on children can have irreversible, lifelong, and even transgenerational consequences. To ensure every child lives in a clean, green, safe, healthy, and sustainable world, ZELA has joined progressive organisations for the #Myplanetmyrights campaign, a global movement of over 30,000 advocates worldwide calling on governments to recognize children’s right to a healthy environment.

 

Not to be missed in the discussion was the issue of the rising global demand for land and natural resources that has made protection of community lands and natural resources an urgent priority, particularly in countries such as Zimbabwe with little or no legal protection for communal land rights. Land ownership and use rights in communal areas is a major problem. Historically, land tenure has been controversial in Zimbabwe. Now, the main legal challenge for rural communities is weak tenure rights over communal land which is state owned. This has resulted in land grabbing and evictions driven by private actors using the land for mining or large-scale agricultural projects. This is increasingly becoming an issue of concern and the media practitioners were urged to develop strategies for human rights reporting that is objective and aimed at fostering environmental and social justice in Zimbabwe.

Journalists play a critical role in driving public discourse on climate change, zero carbon energy transition, sustainability, and biodiversity. Loss of livelihoods and increasing poverty levels because of climate change is a major issue. Global warming and the changing weather patterns have resulted in increased cyclone induced floods and acute water shortages promoting increased food insecurity in most communities. Lack of disaster preparedness and ineffective disaster risk response strategies has exacerbated the vulnerability of communities to climate change shocks. As has always been argued, ‘the pen is mightier that the sword’, thus it is critical for the media to research and adequately profile these issues.

 A veil of secrecy surrounds climate and energy contracts. There is limited public participation when mega investment deals are signed, let alone parliamentary oversight. Deals and contracts, including loan agreements are constantly plagued by allegations of corruption, unfair loan repayment terms, secrecy, lack of public disclosure of contracts and information to citizens. The recent Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 2 demands the media scrutiny to ensure that aspects of transparency and accountability are not thrown out the window.

Regarding normative change, the media was encouraged to popularize various mechanisms (United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development Diligence Guidance; Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance), promote greater transparency and access to public interest information using technology and open data, carrying out investigative journalism to expose cases in a quest to realise redress. While it is the duty and primary responsibility of States to protect human rights and ensure that companies do not violate them, it is also the responsibility of businesses to respect human rights and human dignity and to contribute positively to the realization of the right to development. At the very least this requires that corporations respect and uphold human rights.

Journalists must be supported to ensure that they effectively play their invaluable civic roles, not limited to watchdog, civic forum, and agenda-setting in the promotion of good governance and environmental justice. The citizens must be availed with adequate and credible information provided by the media that empowers them to hold the duty bearers, investors, and other stakeholders accountable in as far as environmental protection is concerned.

 

 

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Leaving No One Behind: Striking a balance between recovery and human rights in Zimbabwe’s mining sector

By Mutuso Dhliwayo & Cosmas Sunguro

Introduction

While the COVID-19 pandemic is primarily a health crisis, it has far reaching socio-political and economic ramifications. Serious economic impacts on the mining sector are likely to be increasingly evident in 2021. The focus for mining companies that weathered 2020 is now on recovery, stabilisation and eventual return to profitability. This cannot be at the expense of human rights and must take into consideration obligations of the private sector under the Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Mining companies can ensure they contribute towards just recovery by respecting human rights, especially workers and community rights. Just recovery seeks to build a new social contract. It does not focus on recovery and profitability at any cost, but recovery that is inclusive and sustainable. This requires a human rights-based economic recovery approach.

https://www.business-humanrights.org/de/blog/leaving-no-one-behind-striking-a-balance-between-recovery-and-human-rights-in-zimbabwes-mining-sector/

Mining is a central economic sector in Africa, with extractive industries constituting nearly two thirds of exports from 2001–14—oil and gas alone accounting for close to 50% of total exports. This key economic cog, deemed “essential” and exempt from national lockdowns in many countries, has led one Zimbawean union to demand a COVID-19 risk allowance for mine workers – considered foot soldiers of the nations economy as other industries lockdown. While the focus of this blog is primarily on Zimbabwe, it is a microcosm of what is happening in a number of African countries dependent on mineral resources to power economic recovery and development. Forecasts show that African countries will experience a 3-8% decline in GDP between 2020 and 2021.

Just recovery: pitfalls to avoid

Retrenchment of employees

A number of mining employers have begun “casualisation” of their workforce, a damaging process which allows companies to cash in on high unemployment in Zimbabwe, where the economy is highly informal. This has witnessed workers receiving limping contracts or in some cases not signing a contract at all. This insecurity can cause further issues if workers are involved in accidents, where their lack of contract can obstruct receipt of compensation. Recently Anjin, a Chinese diamond mining company operating in Chiadzwa diamond fields in Marange, made workers sign an ordinary paper which appeared to be, but was not a contract. According to the Labour Act, a payslip should include the full name, work number, rate and indicate any deductions. Lack of a proper contract is a violation of a worker’s constitutional rights and puts workers at greater risk.

Long working hours and or double shifts

Mining companies can achieve their production targets while observing mining regulations, which mandate an eight hour shift. Furthermore, studies have shown production decreases as the number of work hours increase and concentration declines. Despite this, there are reports of overworking by up to 12 hours per day. Fatigue can increase risk of serious accidents, resulting in injury or worse. Following the President’s recent call that “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” and ongoing plans to reach $12 billion in mineral revenue by 2023, the country has been wooing investors in a bid to boost economic recovery. Some of these companies are notoriously irresponsible, with the pandemic increasing opportunities for irresponsibility. According to the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) there is an increasing number of workers being injured at the work place.

Using salaries as bait to increase production

Employers are realising the easiest way to prop up production is to increase salaries. But while money can be a motivator, it cannot come at the expense of health and safety. As working hours are increased, workers are convinced their rewards will increase too. According to the Labour Act, overtime is full time and half and double on Sundays. However, not only can sustained overtime compromise the quality of work and the health of workers, some unscrupulous employers are failing to honour their obligation to pay.

The ongoing rain season has also seen a rise in the number of mining accidents, especially within the artisanal and small scale (ASM) mining sector. We have witnessed cases of mining shafts collapsing, with miners waiting weeks for rescue. To recover lost time and production, a balance must be struck between profits and workers health and safety. Profits have to be realised in an ethical and just manner.

PPE and efforts to contain COVID-19

It is a basic requirement for employees to be provided with proper personal protective equipment (PPE). As profit maximisation is prioritised, chances are high that costs will be cut in the purchasing of PPE, either through the procurement of poor quality materials, or in some cases none at all. Unfortunately, cases of this already exist. Some companies failed to carry out COVID-19 tests or provide sanitiser or facilities for hand-washing. Companies should not cut corners and expenses by compromising employee access to protection, instead they must follow World Health Organisation guidelines and ensure they fulfil workers’ rights as guaranteed in section 65 of the Zimbabwe Constitution.

Impact on communities

In some communities, companies are relied upon for water sanitation. Arda Transau in Manicaland, was recently caught in dispute with ZCDC, after it indicated it could no longer afford to pay rates for water reticulation by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority. Consequently, the right to clean and safe water as provided in section 77 of the Constitution was infringed and only restored after ZELA intervened through litigation.

Conclusion and recommendations

The mining sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. Yet, even in better times it’s reputation with human rights, especially environmental, economic, social and cultural rights, has been very poor. As Zimbabwe, and the mining companies flocking to and operating within it all recover from this pandemic, it is imperative for corporations and their investors to recognise the urgent need to put respect for the human rights of workers and communities at the heart of their economic recovery plans and learn from the pitfalls outlined above. This means:

  • Fair worker contracts, hours and remuneration.
  • Access to health and safety equipment, including COVID-19 related requirements.
  • Ongoing corporate social responsibility action and respect for community rights.
Image by Andrew Bogrand
https://www.business-humanrights.org/de/blog/leaving-no-one-behind-striking-a-balance-between-recovery-and-human-rights-in-zimbabwes-mining-sector/

Litigation

Strategic Litigation against Public Participation (SLAPP) suit and Environmental Rights Defenders: Mineral Sands Resources (PTY) LTD and Others vs Reddel and Others

Introduction

On February 09, 2021, the South African High Court sitting at Western Cape delivered a milestone ruling on the protection of Environmental Rights Defenders (ERDs) against Strategic Litigation and against Public Participation (SLAPP) claims. In the Mineral Sands Resources (PTY)LTD  and Others vs Reddel and Others[1] case, the High Court upheld the SLAPP suit defence raised by Environmental Rights Defenders that  the claim was actuated by the desire to silence the voice of the defenders, thwart their freedom of expression and abuse the court process.[2] The purpose of this article is to examine the decision by the High court and make it more accessible and understandable to Environmental Rights Defenders in Africa The article explains the ruling’s context and content. Further, it explains what the decision mean to Environmental Rights Defenders. The article argues that the ruling shapes how SLAPP suits should be dealt with in Africa as the ruling carries some lessons for ERDs and Judiciaries  in Africa.

 

Context and Content of the Case

SLAPP suits happens to be one of the major emerging threats to environmental rights activism and participation in Africa and the world at large. This is becoming more evident in Africa in the face of globalisation and multinational companies in the Extractives Industries, Oil and Gas. Businesses prefer to operate in an environment where they are not held accountable. When questioned the recent trend has been to abuse the court process through bringing in SLAPP suits.  SLAPP suits have been defined as ‘’meritless or exaggerated lawsuits intended to intimidate civil society advocates, human rights defenders, journalists, academics, and individuals as well as organisations acting in the public interests.”[3] They are litigated into silence by corporations and often drained of their resources.[4]

In this case two mining companies that are involved in the exploration and development of major mineral sands in South Africa (Tormin Mineral Sands project and Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project) sued ERDS for defamation. The Environmental Rights Defenders sued are Reddell, Davies and Cullanan who are environmental lawyers. The company also sued Cloete, Dlamini and Clarke who are community activists. The ERDS were sued for defamation in the sum of R 14,25 million, alternatively the publication of apologies. The two companies alleged that the defendant’s activists throughout their advocacy initiatives exhibited in the form of lectures, discussion panels, books, and opinions in which they were criticizing the mining operations and activities of the companies uttered defamatory statements. In essence, the companies wanted monetary compensation or an apology for being criticized by the activists. The ERDS in turn raised two defences to the claims. In their first defence the ERDS indicated that the claims raised by the mining companies was an abuse of court process motivated by the desire to silence them from public participation. They further indicated that the claim was meant to violate their freedom of speech. The second defence raised was that the claim by the mining companies was bad in law. The court dismissed the second defence and dealt comprehensively with the second defence. It is also the second defence that is the centre of this discussion.

The Ruling of the Court and the Protection of Environmental Rights Defenders

The Court came to a finding that this litigation was a well calculated strategy by the mining companies to silence the activists. The Court highlighted that damages claimed by the mining companies were not realistic and exorbitant as the was never an intention to get monetary compensation   but to put a financial burden on the defenders. The court further noted that public participation is a key component of any democracy and that individuals and Non-governmental organisations must have the freedom to debate and air their views on environmental issues and sustainable development in their society. The High Court stressed the point that corporates should not be allowed to use the law as a weapon to silence citizens from public participation. In the end the court was satisfied that the claim by the corporates fits the DNA of a SLAPP suit.

This decision constitutes a watershed for the protection of environmental rights defenders against the SLAPP suits. This decision shows progressive jurisprudential development in recent times on how courts should deal with SLAPP suits. There is no doubt that the ruling constitutes a leap forward in shaping the narrative which protection courts   should give to ERDS.  If environmental rights defenders are to be protected there is need to strike a balance between the need to ensure access to justice and the promotion of rights such as freedom of expression and public participation. Environmental rights defenders thrive in debates and public participation. They thrive in an environment where criticism and scrutiny of businesses on public interest issues is tolerated.

This judgment also sets the tone for corporations who would in the future use SLAPPP suits to silence activists. It deters corporations from the abuse of the court process for the purposes of violating the exercise of freedom of expression. The ruling serves as lesson to corporates to tolerate and accept criticism from the pubic as it is part of a democratic society. Corporates should create safe places that allow environmental rights defenders to thrive.

The High court in this case indicated that South Africa does not have a piece of legislation that specifically protects Environmental rights defenders against SLAPP suits. In its ruling the court highlighted that this can be exploited. Most African countries do not have SLAPP suit specific legal framework which exposes environmental rights defenders to abuse by corporations. This is particularly sad in Africa in this age of globalisation and multinational companies who have all the financial resources to take on SLAPP suits. It is hoped that African states will heed to the call by the court in this case and enact legislation to protect defenders. Such kind of legislation will enhance freedom of expression and participation. It will foster a culture of public debates and good governance as citizens will not fear being SLAPPED.

 

By and large, the article has briefly outlined the lessons that can be derived from the South African High Court decision. This case is a step in the right direction, and it is hoped that our courts in Africa will take a cue from this case.

 

END//

 

About the writer

Richard Ncube is a public interest environmental justice and human rights lawyer from Zimbabwe. He is currently studying for his LLM at the beautiful and prestigious University of Sussex in UK courtesy of arguably the best scholarship in the world (Chevening). His interested in environmental law, climate change and Business and Human rights.  

 

 

 

[1] 7595/2017.

[2] ibid.

[3] Mineral Sands (n1) 21.

[4] ibid.

Of a vaccination apartheid

Compiled by Moreblessings Chidaushe-Norwegian Church Aid

Just as we thought and had highly hoped that 2021 would be a much better year – we are waking up to an even more difficult 2021, new variants of the virus are sprouting everywhere, some faster and more dangerous than the first, the world was never prepared for this.

Roll-out of the vaccine initially developed for the first variant is now in full swing across Europe and America, Africa is yet to start its own process and even when it starts the roll out,it will be at a much limited level compared to the rest of the world.

When the pandemic struck in early 2020, it quickly became amply evident that COVID-19 would hit the poorest the most – even in its second phase, the unequal nature of the impact of the pandemic is still abundantly visible. The poor could not self-isolate under safe and decent conditions, without access to safe water they could not wash their hands regularly as is advised in the COVID-19 protocol, they could not stay at home lest they die of hunger and this continues unabated.

The deep structural inequalities of the global society are also now being further exposed by the unequal access to the vaccine. As has been reiterated by the People’s Vaccine Campaign – we are currently witnessing vaccine apartheid at play – the rich-poor divide as stark as ever.  Canada is reported to have secured many times more than it needs of the different vaccines, United Kingdom, Sweden and many other European countries expect to have completed vaccinating all their citizens by the third quarter of 2021 if not earlier. “wealthy countries including Australia, Canada and the United States have struck deals with manufacturers to provide their countries with more than enough doses for their populations, leaving lower-income countries unable to immunize but a small proportion of their population” (Cfr.org, 2021). To date, Africa has not yet started vaccinating its people and when it starts, only enough for front-line workers has been secured, the majority will have to wait for a long while to get their jab and heaven knows exactly how long that while will be. The global south once again bears the brunt of a highly unequal world.

The poor will feel the impacts of COVID-19 for a long time to come, the poor will continue to limp on in finding a better solution moving forward. Sadly, lessons learnt from COVID-19 do not seem to have made a difference in approach. For our governments, there is still no sense of urgency to correct the pre-COVID-19 conditions that landed us where we are – at least not to the person in the street like me. Where is the urgency by national governments to strengthen the public health systems, education systems, food security, public infrastructure?  Where is the urgency- beyond lockdowns to deal with the situation at hand? Arguing during the very early stages of the pandemic that, COVID-19 had been an eye opener and that things would never be same again we would forever do better, a friend did warn me not to raise my hopes too high. Without the requisite urgency to deal with finding a long-term solution to cushion society against further harmful damage of pandemic and other emergencies, socio-economic inequalities will continue to render the poorest vulnerable. Addressing the rampant socio-economic inequalities will no doubt be a major contributory factor to building more societal resilience to this pandemic and other future catastrophes.

Society will also have to play its part and take responsibility for ensuring the fight for COVID-19 is won, we all have a critical role to play. National governments have been struggling with compliance of some of the most basic protocols such as wearing masks, correct wearing of the masks and maintaining physical distancing. In many cases people simply don’t comply. A recent personal experience – and sadly I have heard many similar stories standing in a queue in a supermarket in central Harare I was harassed and threatened by a fellow shopper simply for reminding him to keep social distance as he kept moving too close to me. The fellow shopper aggressively told me that he would not comply and would not be told by me a fellow shopper to comply because I was just another shopper and did not work for the supermarket. I am still trying to reflect on the level of aggression and anger in the fellow customer’s response – it might well be that his frustration was about more than just the COVID-19 protocol but on my part I needed to protect my life and will continue to do so. However, I need to know and feel that I can do it without getting an aggressive response from a fellow human who should anyways be playing their part to save their own and other people’s lives. And by the way the supermarket on its part was not doing anything to enforce compliance – hence the fellow customer also did not see the need to comply. An all of society approach is what will move us forward, government, citizens, business.

On their part, national governments need to urgently address the issue of the health and safety concerns of the vaccine. There is a worrying growing unease, suspicion, negativity and resistance around the vaccine. There is simply not enough public information and popular education on the vaccine and how it will work and most importantly its impact, raising real fears of its safety from the citizenry. As they say, nature hates vacuums. In the absence of this critical information, social media is fueling conspiracy theories and misinformation about potential bad long-term impacts of the vaccine cementing the resistance, with some even talking about an intent to wipe away the south. Urgent popular education is required to educate and inform citizens that vaccination is the way to save us.

Given the experiences of massive corruption that bedeviled the Personal Protective Equipment procurement, guard should be high. Faith leaders, faith-based organisations, grassroots movements and civil society formations such as the People’s Vaccine campaign should play an oversight role to ensure transparency and accountability in the rolling-out of the vaccine to ensure that there is equitable access for all.

This too shall come to pass!