NGOs raise concerns over Mining bill increasing Zanu PF footprint in sector

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By Anna Chibamu and Darlington Gatsi

LOCAL organisations have raised fears that the proposed Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill will increase the tentacles of ruling party Zanu PF in the sector at the expense of mining communities and artisanal miners.

This came out during the public hearings on the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill that are currently being held by the Mines and Mining Development Parliamentary committee.

The bill seeks to repeal existing mining law to adapt to new national and international standards.

Speakers who presented submissions castigated high levels of corruption in the sector saying disadvantaged groups should benefit from the mining activities in their own areas.

War veterans and ruling elite were also castigated for owning almost all mining claims ranging from 400 000 ha or more whilst unemployed youths were languishing in poverty.

“We have become second citizens in our own country,” said Cephas Ncube, adding that corruption had hampered prospects of having mining certificates for youths.

“We have non-renewable resources so we must benefit from these minerals. A foreigner can come into Zimbabwe and be given mining rights yet locals are being shun away because they do not have capital. We must be included in these processes to develop our nation,” added Ncube.

Chinese have been accused of having mining rights over locals as they have resources.

Corruption had been considered the main challenge in the sector with so many under-hand deals involved.

Zimbabwe Centre for Equal Opportunities (ZCEO) president Paddington Japajapa said the bill gives the Minister of Mines excessive power consequently increasing the hold of Zanu PF in the sector.

“There is no security in the mining sector. The issue of Machete gangs. This must be a priority in the bill. People have been killed in the Midlands province and elsewhere around the country. There are some war-lords in the province who have declared that some mining areas are a no-go area.

“I propose that Parliament should have a committee composed of the security forces (police and army) to deal with Machete gangs.

“Let us stop politicizing the mining activities,” Japajapa said.

Paidamoyo Muzulu of Veritas said: “We would like to have the issue of communal lands in terms of preference, where miners and those seeking claims have precedence over the people staying on that land.

“In the past, we have seen people being moved from their land without any compensation. That should be safeguarded by the state. People cannot be moved arbitrarily without getting new areas for re-location”.

He added that the bill should be clear that residents of that communal area, in the advent of a mining concession being given, should be beneficiaries of that mining enterprise.

Further, Muzulu requested that any large mining deal has to be presented before Parliament for scrutiny prior to any investor getting it.

“Exclusive Prospecting Licenses (EPLs) should be debated in Parliament before being given to anyone.”

Blessing Togarepi, a representative of illegal small scale miners’ association raised fears on the claims’ ownership by Mines ministry workers urging the bill to have a Section that prohibits them from having any mining claims until they retire or resign from the ministry.

“This is a conflict of interest that creates corruption,” Togarepi said.

Some speakers claimed they applied for mining certificates in 2015 and never got any feedback.

Calls were also made for an independent Mining Affairs Board to be scrapped off the Bill.

“This board issue will be a bottleneck. It will cause delays in miners getting their mining rights. How long will it take for a board to sit? Everyone wants to peg a claim and have rights to mine. This board must be removed,” said one young miner.