By Felix Matasva
MUTARE: A Manicaland-based environmental watchdog, Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust (GGZT) has called on mining companies to seek social licenses to foster inclusion and participation of local communities.
The call comes after Headmen Chiadzwa and 27 villagers were recently arrested for protesting against the Chinese-owned diamond mining company, Anjin Investments’ bid to initiate a ritual ceremony without their knowledge.
The villagers were later dragged to court where they were ordered to pay $3 000 each as bail.
A social license is an ongoing approval and acceptance of a mine by its employees, community stakeholders, and the general public.
Social licenses are centred on the idea that institutions need regulatory permission. There is also increasing pressure for ‘social permission’ to conduct their business operations.
In a press statement, GGZT bemoaned the arrests of the Chiadzwa villagers, saying it was unfair as the residents were protesting against the violation of cultural rights, defilement of workers’ rights, and legacy debt.
“We are alarmed, like all forward-thinking organisations lobbying for natural resource governance to drive sustainable development, to learn of the arrest of Headman Robert Chiadzwa and 27 others on 2 November 2021,” reads part of the statement.
“As they were making a follow-up, exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights to seek redress, the company turned on the villagers. Such spurious charges not only expose Anjin for negotiating with the community in bad faith, reeks of state-sanctioned impunity (political protection) always claimed by foreign investors.”
The environmental watchdog expressed deep concern over the failure of formal diamond mining to contribute to the national Treasury when communities were facing developmental challenges.
The GGZT said traditional leaders must not be incarcerated for representing their communities in seeking economic justice from foreign investors.
“Civil society organisations have extensively called for a legal instrument that promotes responsible investments, provides benefit-sharing, formalise artisanal mining and a framework for devolved mining governance.
“We, therefore, call for transformative conflict resolution, fully cognisant of the need to maintain public order in compliance with criminal law dictates, as a sustainable solution to repair the fractious relations between mining investments and the community.”
The rights group is rallying in solidarity with Chiadzwa villagers for challenging business operations, which violate human rights, social and cultural values, and environmental laws.