CONTROVERSIAL Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) president Henrietta Rushwaya (pictured) has made a shocking plea to the Zanu PF government to repeal a piece of legislation which criminalises the possession of gold without a valid licence from the authorities.
Rushwaya, who represents the country’s small-scale miners, is currently facing charges of attempting to smuggle six kilogrammes of the precious metal outside the country. She was arrested at Robert Mugabe International Airport last year on her way out of the country.
Under the country’s laws, Fidelity Printers and Refineries is the only entity mandated to buy the yellow metal on behalf of the government.
The ZMP boss told delegates attending the just-ended Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe annual meeting held in Victoria Falls that the authorities should liberalise legislation regulating the gold industry in order to ramp up output.
Gold is Zimbabwe’s single largest foreign currency earner, accounting for more than 50% of export earnings.
Official statistics show that small-scale miners who are currently using rudimentary tools such as pans, picks and shovels to extract minerals from the belly of the earth account for the bulk of gold mined in the country.
“With regards to growth prospects, we are requesting for the repealing of the Gold Trade Act especially Section 3 up to Section 12 which mostly talks about the criminalisation of gold possession without a valid licence,” Rushwaya said
during the conference which was officially opened by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and attended by senior Zanu PF officials such as party commissar Mike Bimha. The conference ran under the theme “Unleashing the potential of the Zimbabwe gold industry.”
“I have noted that Honourable Bimha is here from the ruling party. Honourable Bimha please carry our message as small-scale miners to the ruling party — especially to politicians — insofar as repealing the Gold Trade Act when it comes to election time and re-enforcing it after the elections and this should be a permanent feature in Zimbabwe.”
Rushwaya also asked Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi to speed up reforms which formalise artisanal mining in the country and blamed the Attorney-General’s Office for being lethargic in its operations. She also appealed to large mining companies to assist small scale miners with critical skills which ensure the safety of the miners.
Over the years, several miners have been killed while others have been trapped under disused mine shafts while carrying out artisanal mining activities which are characterised by manual labour or minimal-to-no mechanisation.
The International Labour Organisation statistical manual defines the informal sector as consisting units engaged in the production of goods or services with the primary objective of generating employment and incomes to the persons concerned. These units typically operate at a low level of organisation.
Thus accordingly formalisation is the process of bringing players in the informal economy into the formal economy. Formalisation of the informal economy can take different forms: registration, taxation, organisation and representation, legal and social protection, business incentives and support.
In 2018, Rushwaya won her first ZMF elections and that same year deliveries to the country’s sole gold buyer and exporter Fidelity Printers and Refiners (FPR) by small-scale miners hit a record high of over 21 tonnes.
However, many citizens are closely watching to see how the authorities will handle her gold smuggling case.