ALTHOUGH President Emmerson Mnangagwa has received a few congratulatory messages from heads of state before his inauguration ceremony, most of them are leaders of countries which have controversially benefitted from Zimbabwe’s natural resources, The NewsHawks has learnt.
Congratulatory messages have been slowly trickling in since Mnangagwa won the disputed 23 and 24 August election that has been condemned by observer missions as neither free, fair nor credible.
Analysts say Mnangagwa has been at pains to legitimise the election, which was seen as key in cleansing the country’s battered image on the international stage.
This week, Centre for Natural Resource Governance director Farai Maguwu has expressed concern over the interests harboured by some of the countries who have rushed to send congratulatory messages to Mnangagwa in the aftermath of the disputed polls.
“It is no coincidence that some leaders, some of whom have not held a democratic election, have sent congratulatory messages for holding a peaceful election. It is really a shame that the national interest is absent in all this,” Maguwu told The NewsHawks.
“Belarus has a big exclusive prospecting order (EPO) that it was given in Manicaland. They are shifting the course of Mutare River in order to extract gold and, in the process, contributing to massive river siltation with a far-reaching impact on Odzi River and Save River. Residents are complaining about the sand that is being deposited into the rivers.
“Then there is also the demolition of hills. The residents have written to the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) complaining, but because Belarusian company Zim Goldfields is linked to powerful people in Manicaland, Ema in Manicaland has not been able to stop them.”
In 2018, Belarusian company Zim Goldfields obtained permits to prospect for gold on nearly 55 000 hectares in three locations, and was given a five-year “special grant” to mine along Mutare River.
Zim Goldfields was given the permit after autocratic Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko dispatched his right-hand man Viktor Sheiman to Zimbabwe to negotiate trade and business deals on his government’s behalf in March 2018.
Maguwu said China, which also sent a congratulatory message to Mnangagwa, has been the major beneficiary of the country’s lithium.
“More than 90% of it is destined for China while the remainder is going to South Africa. So, the Chinese have captured the whole territory, and it is theirs to loot, as long as they are paying bribes, they are free to loot the country dry,” Maguwu said.
The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association’s (Zela) February investigation has also revealed that foreign buyers are smuggling lithium ore, which is bought in bulk from artisanal miners.
For instance, during one of Zela’s visits to mining sites in Mberengwa, there were various buyers of lithium who were operating haulage trucks at night.
It also emerged that the lithium miners sell the mineral to buyers, mostly Chinese nationals, who clandestinely drive at night to these remote areas for collection, according to the report.
The Chinese nationals are said to be the best buyers, forking out between US$120 and US$150 on average for a tonne of lithium.
In 2014, Penhalonga residents expressed concern over the mining operations of DZT-Ozgeo, a joint venture between the Development Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ) and Russia’s Ozgeo, accused of causing environmental degradation along Mutare River where it had been mining alluvial gold, while failing to benefit local communities.
“Apart from massive environmental degradation, nobody could explain how DTZ-Ozgeo was benefitting the residents of Penhalonga. There was no single structure or housing unit constructed by DTZ-Ozgeo in Penhalonga for the 10 years they operated in the area. The company security personnel tortured many people to death on allegations of illegal mining within its concession,” Maguwu said.
Russia has also been involved in the US$3 billion Great Dyke Investments platinum project in Darwendale which was a joint venture between the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and a Russian consortium comprising of Vi Holdings, arms conglomerate Rostec and Vnesheconombank, with allegations that the Zimbabwe National Army owned a 30% stake in the GDI joint venture.
As previously reported by The NewsHawks, the Russians pulled out of the Darwendale deal in 2021 due to a plethora of problems which include corruption, mismanagement, mistrust and poor planning. After the deal crumbled, the Russians ceded their 50% stake in the company to Zimbabwe’s Kuvimba Mining House.
Parliament has queried Kuvimba Mining House’s shareholding, which is said to be 65% owned by the government and 35% by ghost shareholders. The company now controls 50% of Great Dyke Investments.
“Russia, we know they were given a five-year platinum deal, where they will be on tax holiday, where they would be looting platinum without paying anything to Treasury. The deal has collapsed. Government has given Alrosa; the last time I heard it had 46 exclusive prospecting orders (EPO) right from Manicaland to Tsholotsho in Matabeleland,” Maguwu said.
While South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been at pains to explain why he had sent congratulatory messages to Mnangagwa, Maguwu said the neighbouring country has been the major beneficiary of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis.
“We have South Africa which is the biggest beneficiary of Zimbabwe’s demise. Our platinum and chrome has been monopolised by South Africa. At one point, the biggest gold producer in Zimbabwe was Metallon Gold.
“So, even our manufacturing industries since 2007 migrated to South Africa. So, the South African government is singing about anti-imperialistic propaganda, so that our workforce goes to South Africa.”