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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!

Diamonds failing to maintain their lustre

Compiled by Nyasha Chingono

WHEN Marange witnessed a diamond rush in 2006, its inhabitants dared to dream of a better life.

Nearly two decades after the diamond rich soils were invaded by massive mining companies, government and individuals looking to stick their fingers in the honey pot, Marange is a trail of poverty.

A drive along the vast swathes of the diamond rich planes of Marange, one is greeted with deep despair. A community that never benefited from its vast resources.

Far away in the city, the rich who plundered the resource, live large in opulence.

The curse of owning rich minerals still haunts Marange years after big mining consortiums descended on their land.

“We have nothing to show that we ever had diamonds here,” Clever Mupasi, 60, a community elder in Marange said.

He makes a cursory gaze across the vast swathes of land which have been reduced to piles of sand and deep pits.

“This is what is left of our beautiful land. When diamond was discovered here, we thought the future of our children was now set but we were wrong. We listened to their lies and curse ourselves for ever believing in the capitalists,” Mupasi said, gazing to the clear blue skies as if to summon divine strength. 

While the government made it mandatory for mining companies operating in communities to cede 10% to the community through the Community Share Ownership Trust, the Marange community has not seen development in their land. 

Despite committing to uplifting livelihoods in Marange-Zimunya, Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) is yet to implement meaningful projects in the area.

“We were sold a dummy. These empty promises continue to hurt our community, hope is fading daily,” Moses Mhlanga, another community elder said. 

“We are yet to get our share of the profit these companies have made from diamond activities.” 

The companies have left a trail of irreparable destruction while other diamond companies continue to plunder the resources.

The Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust (MZCSOT) was launched by the late former President Robert Mugabe in 2011 with the goal of communities benefiting from their resources.

But years after the launch, people here are still clinging to hope for better schools, health facilities and livelihoods.

With poverty stalking the community following repeated droughts, the Marange community is desperate for interventions. About 8 million Zimbabweans are facing hunger this year, the World Food Programme (WFP) says.

In a bid to help communities’ benefit from their resources, the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) is pushing to influence mining revenue transparency and benefit sharing in the extractives sector in Zimbabwe.

In a report entitled Tracing the progress towards revenue transparency and revenue sharing in the extractives sector in Zimbabwe (2013-2019), the advocacy campaign seeks to help mining communities to realise benefits of the community share ownership trusts some of which have either been forfeited by companies. 

The PWYP Zimbabwe  was birthed in the same year that government came up with regulations for setting up mining community share ownership trusts. 

The campaign’s focus on mining transparency and accountability issues remains as critical as ever. With a huge mineral wealth potential, mining could be leveraged to support Zimbabwe’s economic recovery, stabilisation and growth agenda,” reads the report. 

Since the 2000 land reform, the mining sector has been one of the biggest contributors to economic growth. The sector contributed US$2.9 billion, accounting for 60% to country’s

total export earnings in 2018. 

Mining employs around 35,000 people, of which 99% are indigenous Zimbabweans, an average of 75% are from the local communities, and nearly 7% are female, the report reads.

While the mining sector contributes immensely to economic growth, the community should also benefit from the resources.

Therefore, the right of communities to benefit from resources in their localities is enshrined in the Zimbabwean Constitution.

According to the report communities are unaware of how they should benefit from the community share ownership trust, hence it is difficult for PWYP.

“On the ground, some service delivery points like schools and clinics are not aware of how they are supposed to benefit from the revenue sharing arrangements between central government and local governments. But a big challenge already lies ahead for civil society, especially the PWYP campaign, to ensure transparency, accountability and citizen participation in the management and utilisation of devolution funds,” the report reads. 

PWYP also laments the lack of clarity in the constitution on how communities can access mining benefits. “Particularly PWYP members, have been pushing for policy and practice reforms to improve the development impact of CSOT on LESD. All this work has been precipitated by the government’s thrust to open the mining sector for investment, taking a pro large-scale investor stance in the process and disregarding the constitutional right of communities to benefit from resources in their localities,” reads the report. 

The report notes that the mining sector transparency framework in Zimbabwe fails to meet the bottom bar. 

As a result, citizens and civil society lack the information leverage to effectively ask the government and corporates hard questions on how their resources are managed to deliver an optimal national development dividend.

The report notes that there is a need for robust advocacy to ensure that community’s benefit from their resources and the creation of a transparent environment by mining companies. 

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.