Mineral Leakages Impoverishing Rural Communities – Rights Groups 

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By Staff Reporter

CHIMANIMANI: Environmental rights groups in Manicaland have expressed concern over the continued leakages and smuggling of minerals out of the country with resource-rich communities failing to access basic service delivery and other economic benefits.

In a joint media interface held in Chimanimani, the Zivai Community Empowerment Trust (ZICET), Penhalonga Youth Development Trust (PYDT, the Amalgamated Chiadzwa Development Communities Trust (ACDCT), Chimanimani Development Trust (CDT), and Centre for Research and Development (CRD) said corruption and gold smuggling among other criminal acts had crippled the country’s efforts to leverage on service delivery issues.

The groups believe gold smuggling in Zimbabwe was spearheaded by well-organised and resourced syndicates.

According to (ZICET), it is the government’s prerogative to curb these illegal acts.

“Our government is losing revenue through illicit financial flows (IFFs), hence it is a mammoth task to achieve the US$12 billion mining sector economy by 2023. IFFs in the mining sector hampers socio-economic development hence there is a serious need for the government to act responsibly,” it said.

“As a community organisation which is deeply rooted where gold is being extracted, we seriously condemn the resource leakages and call upon the government to promote and demonstrate commitment to transparency and accountability in gold mining,” ZICET added.

PYDT said the leakages had a direct bearing in the communities where there is rampant stripping of gold by companies controlled by political elites.

“The plunder of gold in Penhalonga is at an alarming level. Selfish agendas of a few are destroying the lives of many. Unregistered gold buyers have flooded Penhalonga.

“They work hand-in-glove with illicit miners operating in Penhalonga and the black market is flourishing. Due to high levels of unemployment in Zimbabwe, desperate youths are being sub-contracted by middlemen to open dangerous pits and extract gold without any regard to human safety.

“A number of them are sustaining permanent injuries and going home with nothing. Some are being trapped in the pits and losing their lives, others are dying of malaria because they sleep in temporary shacks and open fields. Our environment in Penhalonga is degraded and polluted with impunity.

PYDT urged President Emmerson Mnangagwa to ensure the Mines Ministry allowed the youths to venture into gold mining in a transparent and accountable manner.

On its part, ACDCT strongly condemned the failure of the government to combat gold and diamond smuggling.

“It is common practice in Chiadzwa that on a rotational basis state security operatives have been central in facilitating illegal diamond digging and smuggling activities ever since the government took over the diamond fields from African Consolidated Resources in 2006,” it said.

“The consolidation of diamond mining by government in 2016 sidelined our community. Consolidation further entrenched the interests of political elites in diamond mining and their institutions of power. Diamond extraction by Anjin and Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) is currently taking place in our Chiadzwa community.

The CDT said in their community, illegal gold-digging was ring-fenced by people with political influence.

“They control illegal digging and smuggling syndicates in Chimanimani District. There is wanton digging of gold in Tarka forests, Chimanimani National Parks, Roscommon Estates, Nyabamba, Rusitu Valley, Haroni, and Rusitu river confluence. Illegal gold-digging is also taking place in Springfield (Masiza) and Bullock areas.

“Political elites have manipulated mining authorities to award themselves with several gold claims in these areas. Gold mined in these areas is being sold on the black market and smuggled to international markets through Mozambique and South Africa.

CRD claimed Mnangagwa rejected to assent the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill (MMAB) in September 2018.

“The Deputy Attorney General pointed 10 clauses of the Bill which the President said were weak and needed redrafting. In July 2020, Mr. Nelson Diaz, the Deputy Attorney General Legal Drafting, appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines to explain the reasons for the delay in drafting the Bill.

“His appearance followed the failure by the October 2019 deadline to present the Bill in Parliament. Mr. Diaz pleaded for two weeks to produce the final draft of the Bill highlighting that his drafting team was understaffed.

“The Bill has not seen the light of day in Parliament up to now. Information, we obtained indicates that plans by the Ministry of Mines to amend the Gold Trade Act (Chapter 21:03) together with the Precious Stones Act (Chapter 21:06) have stalled at the research stage because the drafting of the main Bill (MMAB) has not been completed,” said CRD.

The rights group said the amendments were important to curb leakages in the trading of gold and precious stones.

“The constitutional Amendment Bill No 2 was processed into law at lightning speed because it intends to safeguard the interests of the Executive. The views of the people of Zimbabwe on the Bill that were expressed through Parliament were not adopted.

“Consultations on the MMAB have been extensively carried out over the years but rejected by the Executive. The law-making process in Zimbabwe has become a preserve for the Executive,” said CRD.