By Lenin Tinashe Chisaira

The transcript is from a Radio dialogue focusing on “Relations between Mines and mining communities in Zimbabwe’ broadcast on 19 July 2016. The show features Lenin Tinashe Chisaira, an environmental lawyer and researcher representing the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association[1]. The interviewer’s name is Tafadzwa Muranganwa from Radio Voice of the People (VOP)[2], an independent radio station. Radio VOP broadcasts via satellite on the channel called ChannelZim.  The radio broadcasts on the internet as well, on www.channelzim.net. The audio of this interview recording can be accessed on these YouTube links [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzTGWG0V1-k  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JogBxIPyryM ]

 

Tafadzwa (Radio VOP):       Welcome to the programme, Mr Chisaira. Sorry we delayed a little bit. We were failing to get connected, but now we are on. Thanks you, Mr Tendai [sic] Chisaira for gracing Radio VOP…Radio Voice of the People and we want to discuss the relations between mines and the mining communities. Of late we have had reports…I was reading The Manica Post[3] where there was suspected diamond miners who were nabbed. But we have seen over the years the mining communities who were around Chiadzwa[4] were crying foul that the government gave them a raw deal with the Community Ownership Trust that was launched, it never came to fruition…a whole array of problems they were saying they were facing even when we know that the diamond fields in Marange were so much richer and we suspect this US$15 billion which went missing was from Marange. Welcome to the program, Mr Chisaira.

L. T. Chisaira:  Thanks a lot, Tafadzwa. Well, this is a very interesting discussion especially if we look at our economic status as Zimbabweans. You know it’s barely a month since the President of the nation himself faced the nation and informed them that up to $15 billion have been lost[5]. Most of it obviously was a result of illicit financial flows whereby money just leaves the country on channels that are not even known to the people who are responsible for the national budget, the national fiscus, and revenue collection. Some of the money gets lost through what are called transfer mispricing and trade mis-invoicing where they fake these amounts of prices that they would have sold their minerals to their fellow subsidies of the various multinational companies.

So it is a very interesting discussion, the issue of mines and mining communities because if we look at the issue in a very frank manner, basically our economic status, the mining economic environment in Zimbabwe is not divorced from the entire economic strata, from the entire economic system in our society whereby we have big business, we have multinational companies, we have big mining companies that are mostly focused on profit-making at the expense of people and environmental rights. So it is a very really… i don’t think I should say interesting, but it’s a very scary discussion to conduct in that whilst we are conducting this discussion, people are really suffering from environmental injustice, from economic injustice as a result of the faults of these mining companies.

Tafadzwa (Radio VOP):   But Mr Chisaira, there are some allegations from the mining companies’ management where they are saying that some of the demands by these mining communities are not justified…where they want their own folk in the mining areas to be employed. And some of them would be saying the people do not have requisite skills so that they can be employed. If you heard from those clips from Marange, some were saying there are not giving them even those jobs that are for the less skilled. What’s your take regarding the management of some of these mining companies who are saying some of the demands are not justified?

L.T. Chisaira: I think that really is a very dishonest accusation coming from mining companies. Because when you see…most of the demands that come from mining communities may be classified mainly under three main demands. One, because we have this issues that we call Local content whereby as civil society, for example my own organisation, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, we really fight, we really campaign for these organisations to respect issues of local content development and this has three main components.

 

One is that mining companies should have… should adopt a policy of employing locals, which is local employment.

They should also develop a policy of procuring some basic items, you know a mining company has many workers but they can even go as far as buying their basic vegetables from far-away communities instead of the people who are in the immediate locality.

Then there is also the issue of infrastructure development , for example if you are a mining company in rural setting, you also needs to use roads which you use to transport your  minerals, your raw materials , your people etc. etc. So it’s just a matter of saying, if we have Murowa Diamonds in rural Zvishavane which uses a dust road to transport its minerals up to now, I think that’s really unfair. So by developing their own roads, it will also benefit the communities, so I don’t think these are not justifiable demands. Because when a company builds a road, it benefits the company itself as well as the community.

When a company employs locals, it also benefits in terms of maintaining good relations between the company itself and the people whom they would be neighbouring with. And most of these jobs that they demand or ask for from the mining communities. They are really maybe unskilled jobs or those that require very low levels of skills. Indeed when it comes to skilled labour or those that really need very much technical people or highly qualified or highly educated people…yeah the companies there have the liberty to, and I think the right to employ people who are from outside the communities. But for basic jobs, so the most important thing is that these companies should be able to provide records and justifications that shows that for these menial labourers we have taken people from the communities, but for those that require much technical or require much expertise, we have outsourced labour .So I don’t think the demands by mining communities are unreasonable.

Tafadzwa (Radio VOP): I don’t know from our listeners, what you think. You can do so by writing to us on our number 0774 214 539 or you can phone us via our landline number. If you are outside of Harare prefix that number with 04 748 766. If you are in Harare dial the number directly …748766. But coming to you, Mr Chisaira, that impasse between the mines and the mining communities, I think the policy…the decision makers you know could be a factor in trying to bring that impasse. But what are your observations regarding the policy makers in making sure that there is a cordial relationship between the mines and the mining communities. So far as an organisation what do you make of policy makers in regards to this issue?

L. T. Chisaira: I think that’s also in three phases because, first, I think…just in brief, there are some very painful personal stories especially from the communities we work with around Chiadzwa. There is this one lady who lost up to fifty head of cattle after they drank polluted water that had been polluted by these diamond mining companies. On top of that, you see that i itself is an example of an impasse between mines and mining companies.

Then when it comes to policy makers, recently[6] we were talking of the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill which is before parliament. One of the most unfortunate things about that bill, though it has some progressive provisions, the most unfortunate thing is that it doesn’t provide for adequate Free, Prior and Informed Consent whereby a mining company, when they intent to embark on a major project, the community members around that area are supposed to be informed freely, thy should be informed prior to the project takes place and they should be informed so that they don’t just go to meetings and be spoken down to but they also attend those meetings with some basic knowledge about what impacts the mining project will have on their environment, will have on their livelihoods, will have on their families. But that is not being done and the policy makers have not really done a good job with the Mines and Minerals Amendment Act.

Then on the other hand, we also have some policy makers who seem to know that they are doing, who seem to know their jobs very well. For example, recently we had the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee (on Mines and Energy)taking the Permanent Secretary , Prof Gudyanga over the way he was handling the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Mining Company issues[7] which is one of the most touchy issues for people in the diamond mining areas. They seem to be doing their jobs very well. Then also as the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association as an organisation we provide a platform each year, what we call the Zimbabwe  Alternative Mining Indaba , first we conduct them at provincial stage then at the national stage. The 2016 one will be held in Bulawayo. I’m sure you will be there.

Tafadzwa (Radio VOP): You are inviting me?

L. T. Chisaira: Yeah, we really partner with various radio stations. We have partnered with Ya FM[8], then with Diamond FM[9], when we conducted our provincial ones. But so, that’s another platform where we try to resolve that impasse, where we bring together community members, we bring together legislators, even up to cabinet members, Minsters and the mining companies themselves. We try to provide those platforms so that they engage. But you know very well that Mining companies are not really honest on their engagements with community members. They seem to look down upon them.

Tafadzwa (Radio VOP):     We have one comment from one of our listeners and she says, “Mining companies are unfair to community members.” I don’t think there is anyone…Most people are pointing accusations to the mining companies. But they are some communities where other people there are onto artisanal mining. Some are saying they are not willing to regulate their operations. What do you think about these?

L. T. Chisaira: About artisanal mining?

Tafadzwa (Radio VOP): Artisanal mining.

L. T. Chisaira: Well, artisanal and small scale mining in itself…it’s also a very strategic sector for the Zimbabwean economy. Because as you know, well, due to our economic situation…unemployment, drought, etc. The mining sector, especially artisanal and small scale mining can provide some adequate livelihoods for most of our people especially in the rural areas. But then the problem, like you have rightfully pointed out, the problem is lack of formalisation. It is a sector that has not been adequately formalised, though obviously this Mines and Minerals Act, for the first time provides some very little benefits for artisanal, sorry, for small scale miners but we still have problems with artisanal miners. Because at one time the government , the RBZ[10], they came up and said “We have a No Questions Asked Policy”[11] whereby if someone is an artisanal gold miner , he can approach gold buying centres and sell his gold without questions being asked about the legality of his operations, but still it’s not a clear field. As an organisation and as people we really need to urge the policy makers, the government, etc., to really look into the issue of artisanal miners with the seriousness it deserves.

Tafadzwa (Radio VOP):     The listener went on to say “You will be shocked to know someone from Victoria Falls getting a sweeping job in a mine in Mutare, but the locals can’t”. Listeners if you want to input into this program you can do so by texting us or Whatsapping. Our number is 0774 214 539. 0774 214 539. You can also place a call on our number 748 766. 748 766. If you are outside Harare, you can prefix that number with 04.

Thank you, Mr Lenin Tinashe Chisaira for gracing our radio. Time is not on our side. I think you did a wonderful job in trying to make sure some of our listeners get a picture of what’s really happening between mines and mining companies and we have seen that the picture is not looking good. Mines are being accused of failing to develop the mining communities. Thanks you, Mr Chisaira.

L. T. Chisaira: You are welcome, Tafadzwa. Thanks you for inviting me to Radio VOP.

[1] http://www.zela.org/

[2] http://www.radiovop.com/

[3] State-owned newspaper from Manicaland Province

[4] Diamond mining area

[5]The Herald, “Miners robbed us, says President” , accessed at  http://www.herald.co.zw/miners-robbed-us-says-president/

[6] Newsday, “Bill should plug leakages in mining sector: Zela”, accessed at https://www.newsday.co.zw/2016/05/21/bill-plug-leakages-mining-sector-zela/

[7] The Herald, “Parly Grills Gudyanga” , accessed at http://www.herald.co.zw/parly-grills-gudyanga/

[8] Radio station based in Zvishavane, Midlands Province

[9] Radio station based in Mutare, Manicaland Province

[10] Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe

[11]The Herald , “Artisanal miners embrace new RBZ policy” , accessed at http://www.herald.co.zw/artisanal-miners-embrace-new-rbz-policy/

Advertisements