South Africa took away Zimbabwe’s share of Cecil John Rhodes’ mining rights, now evading meetings to discuss issue – NRZ  

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By Anna Chibamu

The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) is seeking to claim a share of mining rights from 1.7 million hectares of land in South Africa taken away by the neighbouring country.

The land in question has become a point of contention as Zimbabwe pushes for mining rights, citing historical agreements and the need for equitable distribution of resources among Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa.

The land was originally designated for shared use between Zimbabwe, Zambia, and South Africa and was historically linked to Cecil John Rhodes, the British colonialist and founder of the British South Africa Company (BSAC) and Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

Rhodes, who played a pivotal role in the colonization of Southern Africa, had originally set aside this expansive tract of land for joint usage but over the years, South Africa has maintained control and personalized the usage of this land, sidelining the other two nations.

Each of the three countries was allocated a 33.3 percent share by Cecil John Rhodes under the Rhodes Trust but Zimbabwe is not benefiting from the mining activities on the said land.

NRZ has been for decades struggling to resuscitate its national railway system.

The NRZ’s report underscores the importance of this land in terms of mineral wealth and economic potential, which could significantly benefit Zimbabwe’s mining sector.

The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) General Manager Respina Zinyanduko gave oral evidence to a joint Parly portfolio committee on Transport and Foreign Affairs on Tuesday alleging South Africa was evading talks with Zimbabwe to resolve the impasse.

Zinyanduko told the joint committee that Rhodes Trust worth 1.7 million hectares of mining land meant to benefit the national railway company and being managed by the Pan-African Mineral Development Company had caused the Zimbabwe government to approach its ministerial counterparts in SA to get its share but in vain.

“Mining rights jointly owned by Zambia Railways ZR, NRZ and the South African Railways then on the vast land of 1.7 million hectares have not benefited us because our mining rights were stripped off.

“Resolving the issue with South Africa has reached a snag because SA keeps on evading meetings. SA has not been forthcoming on the issue that once brought talks between cabinet ministers of the two countries. SA was represented by former Energy minister Dikobe Ben Martinsi,’’ Zinyanduko said.

The reason for not getting any share according to the NRZ GM from SA authorities was simply, “Zimbabwe was unduly benefiting from the mining rights or the Rhodes Trust.”

The general manager also gave oral evidence on other properties owned internationally and locally by the NRZ where six houses were sold in Mafikeng, South Africa.

“The last house was sold in January 2003,” she told the joint committee.

Other properties of the railway company were in Botswana where houses were sold at a yet-to-be-disclosed disposal value in 1987.

She said the United Kingdom has currently 10 properties which are well-managed and bringing in revenue to the company.

NRZ has recorded losses for years and struggled to revamp the organisation to make profits until the government chipped in with a loan to revamp the parastatal.

The wagons are old and the rail system has been vandalized by thieves.

Zinyanduko could not, however, give an estimate on how much the NRZ had lost over the years in terms of revenue from the unavailable Rhodes Trust benefits as well as other properties elsewhere.