Comment: Ministers must take industry serious

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The second edition of the Zimbabwe Mining Indaba has come and gone. This coming at a time the country’s mining industry has been going through interesting developments.

The fact that the indaba has seen an attendance of over 800 delegates, half being local and the other half being delegates from all over the world, mainly from South Africa and Australia – the two top mining nations in the world, shows Zimbabwe is an important player in the world metals industry, hence it needs to use this fact to its advantage.

There is no doubt the potential of the mining industry in Zimbabwe is unequalled with forecast production growth rates of 44% for 2011.

Over the past 18 months, mining houses have made huge investments into their Zimbabwe operations.

Soon after the indaba, senior managers from the country’s struggling mining industry toured Freda Rebecca Mine in Bindura about 50km outside Harare.

The tour came at a time the mine has made major investments in expanding operations. The visit showed the mining industry yearning for foreign investors could still be a panacea to the country’s economic ills. During the hyper-inflationary period, Freda Rebecca Mine closed shop and was put under care and maintenance.

The reopening of Freda Rebecca Mine and that of other mines across the country, has shown things are finally ticking in Zimbabwe and with the right policies, mining might soon get back to where it was.

Once mining begins ticking, the downstream effect will no doubt be felt in various sectors of the economy.

This is why participants attending the indaba comprised suppliers, construction firms, financial institutions, infrastructure specialists, as well as private equity funders in Zimbabwe and abroad.

This is why recent threats to Zimplats, one of the major mining concerns in the country, by Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere to cancel its licence was uncalled for.

But, when Mines minister Obert Mpofu and Economic Development minister Tapuwa Mashakada told the world that government would not cancel operating licences for foreign investors and that the indigenisation policy is flexible, didn’t that leave Kasukuwere with egg on the face?

With the amendment to the Mining and Minerals Act about to be legislated, the obtaining chaos over the indigenisation regulations for the mining sector having been cleared, a sovereign fund and the beneficiation policy both yet to be established, it is time government united and worked together for the betterment of the country’s economy.

It is the confusion or disagreements between Kasukuwere and his counterparts Mpofu and Mashakada that does not bore well with investors.
Zimbabwe desperately needs foreign direct investment and mining has potential to bring in huge investment hence this is not the time for government ministers to haggle or tussle over crumps. Why would Kasukuwere act like a toddler by throwing toys out of “his cot bed”?

One would want to believe that government ministers learnt a thing or two during the indaba because the highlights were but a few issues that made the gathering an invaluable forum for the metals, mining and exploration industry to interact and cultivate long-term partnerships with Zimbabwe’s mining stakeholders and investors.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the indaba was a serious event meant to show up business opportunities in the floundering mining industry or just a talk show.