Paralysing Parliament set to worsen plunder of minerals
UNIONS and civil society say the centralisation of power in the President, Mines minister and Mining Affairs Board, while weakening Parliament’s oversight role in the administration of the capital-intensive mining sector is likely to worsen the looting of minerals, particularly gemstones, which have been inadequately covered by existing legal framework.
The government itself has previously conceded that the country loses over US$1.2 billion annually in gold leakages due to porous systems.
In gemstone governance, the country has no overall national minerals development framework and solely relies on the diamond policy, which has been heavily criticised for its lack of adequate provisions for transparency and inability to curb top-level discretionary powers, among other shortfalls.
As part of the corrective measures, Zimbabwe is in the process of amending the Minerals Act which has been criticised for failing to devolve power to Parliament, which would stretch the legislature’s oversight role and help plug mineral leakages.
In an analysis of the Bill this week, the Zimbabwe Diamond Allied Workers’ Union (Zidawu), an organisation that represents mine workers, said nothing has changed in terms of mineral governance.
“On establishment of the Mining Affairs Board, the only difference is that of composition, but the mandate is similar to the colonial Mining Act. Giving excess powers to the board and even to criminally penalise an offender as provided in clause 13,” said Proud Nyakuni, Zidawu’s legal officer.
“This may lead to usurping power of the judiciary which may not be welcome in a democratic state. The role of the Parliament is invisible or silent in the Bill hence powers are centred in the hands of the Mining Affairs Board, the minister of Mines and Mineral Development and the President. This means the Parliament is stripped of its oversight role in the mining sector, and granting of mining rights can continue to be done while prejudicing the country”.
As previously reported by The NewsHawks, centralising power has been key in illicit mineral flows.
“The major difference between our policy in Zimbabwe and Botswana is that here mineral resources are vested in the President, while in Botswana they are vested in the republic. This has a serious implication.
“Firstly, the minister of Mines really acts in the interests of the President and government. In Botswana, decisions devolve to lower levels and are highly subject to scrutiny . . . also made by low-ranking officials,” said Lyman Mlambo, a mining economist with the University of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe mines more than 30 semi-precious stones, most of which are extracted by informal foreign prospectors from India, Mozambique and other countries, which experts say would benefit the country of power were devolved to Parliament.
With a score of 23 out of 100 on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) and a ranking of 157th out of 180 of the most corrupt countries, Zimbabwe’s institutional governance on gemstones and other minerals falls short of international best practice.
Nyakuni said the Mines ministry’s assumption of other roles which were originally meant to be administered by the Environmental Management Act (Ema) is likely to weigh down on rural district councils in which mining activity takes place.
“On environment, a point of interest is the provision of the Environmental Rehabilitation of Occupational Health and Safety Fund (EROHS) that will be administered by the ministry of Mines, which I think was supposed to be administered by Ema as it carries the mandate of ensuring environmental health and safety, ” Nyakuni said.
“Funding of the EROHS further places a burden on rural district councils (RDCs), requiring them to contribute to the fund for them to be considered as stakeholders. Councils are by default stakeholders, and should not be limited or required to contribute to the fund for recognition. “Secondly, the RDC is given limited powers to tax or levy companies, placing a burden on RDCs in terms of resource mobilisation. It is either RDCs by way of devolution are given powers through their by-laws to gazette taxes and levies for mining companies within their jurisdiction or this requirement is struck off.”