As the mining sector grows in resource-rich Zimbabwe, so is the consciousness of communities living in mining areas. They see the potential for development and a chance to change their lives for the better. Communities are constantly seeking to be involved and prioritized as the government allows investments on their land. In many instances, this has put the lives of community representatives in great danger as they constantly campaign against exploitation and bad practices by mining companies, overlooked by the government.
In 2019, Mhondongori Resources Community Development Trust, a member organization of IANRA, coordinated by Zireva Kudakwashe, petitioned the Zimbabwe government over indigenisation laws, urging the parliament to review the existing laws for communities to benefit from the exploitation of the country’s mineral resources, as stipulated in the constitution. The petition, while acknowledging that the mining sector’s potential to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and provide development opportunities for the national government and local communities, also associated the sector with the rise of policy changes, only to the advantage of Foreign Direct Investments, and neglect of communities.
The petition would be referred to the Portfolio Committee on Industry and commerce and the Thematic Committee on Indigenisation and Empowerment. While the indigenisation policy would not be re-enacted as beseeched, it was stated that other issues raised in the petition were addressed in the existing mining policies. The communities, still seeking for a protective legislation are now pushing for the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, recently approved by the cabinet and set to reform the Mines and Minerals Act of 1961, which has been long termed outdated. Until then, mining communities say, they are not out of the woods yet, as mostly stated during the 11th Edition of Zimbabwe Alternative Mining Indaba held in Bulawayo in early September.
While they may not have borne much fruits in relation to legislation, community and civil society efforts to reform the mining sector have not been in vain. There has been tremendous progress achieved through awareness creation and capacity building as IANRA members and mining communities would commend during our visits to Gold, Platinum and Chromite-rich Gwanda and Zvishavane regions in rural Zimbabwe.
Conflicts between mining companies and communities are lessening as proper communication is being established slowly through the years. Through exposure, training and empowerment, communities, through their representatives are now able to follow proper channels to have issues addressed. Such may include compensation for property damages, pollution, employment, access to roads among others. Women are now more involved in mining, mostly in small-scale and medium scale mining unlike before, when they were left to suffer the negative impacts of mining. Child labour and women and girls abuse are openly addressed and culprits held accountable, therefore, fewer cases are experienced.
Although Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is considered voluntary of companies currently, there are notable infrastructural developments in areas close to mining sites such as schools and roads. Youths, who previously worked in mining companies are starting out independently as artisanal and small-scale miners, creating self-employment. In some instances, companies have subdivided mines between communities.
While these developments stand, host communities say there is still more to be done for the sustainability of the sector and community benefits. They have accused the government of not being accountable for the minerals mined, handing mining licenses long after new companies have started mining, therefore free prior and informed consent is not granted in most cases. Issues related to fear of being forcefully relocated from ancestral lands as mining sites expand and inability to afford proper mining machinery for upcoming miners were also emphasized among other challenges.
As a response to the issues raised by communities, we presented the IANRA Model Law on Mining on Community land as a guide for the communities to use in future engagements and proper understanding of their rights and mechanisms to amicable dispute resolutions among other guidelines related to Impact Assessment, right to information, sustainable mining, compensation and relocation, artisanal mining and taxation regulations. The model law was also presented to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on mines and Mining Development chairman, Hon. Edmond Mukaratigwa who committed to present it before parliament.
The visits to Gwanda and Zvishavane provided Community members a chance to share experiences from the different mining areas as a means to find a uniformly relatable way forward.