BRINGING in together different communities from mineral-rich areas so that they debate and share ideas among themselves on the type of engagement they should pursue in the face of unresponsive investors maybe one factor that can change around their fortunes.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Several mining communities in the country have been accusing miners of not doing enough to uplift them besides the communities having to grapple with negative effects of mining.
After realising that mining companies were not doing enough in terms of social corporate responsibility, the government introduced a Community Share Ownership Trust model whereby miners will have to deposit some money into a community account.
The money is supposed to be used on community projects such as building clinics, schools, roads among other infrastructure and also attend to the community’s needs.
However, very few companies have released such funds and the war between the miners and the communities has slowly intensified.
Last week the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) organised a capacity building workshop for communities from Chiadzwa and Mutoko where black granite is mined.
“This was a capacity building initiative for peer to peer learning on how other community based organisations in particular those in Mutoko and those surrounding diamonds deposits in Manicaland should engage mining companies to promote the realisation of their economic, environmental, social cultural rights,” said Mukasiri Sibanda from Zela.
“This strategy is aimed at making communities understand livelihoods of other natural rich resource communities on how they are grappling with negative impacts of mining and also benefiting from the mainstay economic activity in their area,” he added.
From Manicaland there was Save Odzi Community Network Trust, Chiadzwa Community Development Trust and Arda Transau Development Trust while in Mutoko there was Mutoko North Community Development Trust.
“To us this was very helpful. We discussed ways on how to deal with mining companies and how to package the community’s needs,” said Mutoko North Community Development Trust chairman Kwanisai Dende.
“We have a lot of projects lined up, but there is no adequate money to complete them. Somehow we have an understanding with the miners because they sometimes help us on things like transport, road maintenance and the provision of potable water.
“On the other hand, they are reluctant to deal with big projects and for now the community is angry that a single clinic, Gurure, will take nine years before it is even completed. We are providing labour, bricks, sand for the construction of the clinic and the companies are supposed to pay for the builder and building material.
“For someone serious this should not even take a year. This was the kind of discussion that we had because we need to find ways to ensure that community needs are satisfied,” said Dende.
Chief Mutoko said he was happy to realise that problems faced by mining communities were universal and he hoped from such engagements they will be able to map a binding way forward that can be adopted by the government.
“I am happy with the contribution made by people from Chiadzwa. They are saying a community should be united and be solid on their objectives. If there are pledges by any mining company then that should be guided by timeframes because we cannot have a situation whereby a single clinic can take that long. I hope they have learnt something else from us as well,” he said.
Mainesi Matanda and Cephas Gwayagwaya from Arda Transau said issues which affected the communities should be discussed at a higher level so that they are refined and made binding.
Matanda said it was wrong for legislation to be developed and adopted without the input of communities and hence such an initiative was a step in the right direction.
“I have seen how people in Mutoko work together with mining companies. There is a semblance of understanding. The companies are somehow responsive unlike what ours in Chiadzwa does. Here they refurbish schools, roads and others things. In short the voice of communities is listened to,” she said.
“Establishing some communication is the first important thing then you take it from there.
“I wish if what we discuss here is taken into account when legislation is being developed so that we don’t have similar problems like we have on the community share ownership schemes whereby some companies are denying knowledge of their pledges,” she said.
Evelyn Kutyauripo added that there was need to have localised solutions for different communities because the one size fit all approach from government may not work.
Gladys Mavusa from CCDT said there were similar problems in Chiadzwa and Mutoko. She said there was widespread pollution, soil erosion and issues to do with gender on employment.
She also said there were problems of child abuse whereby mine workers pounced on unsuspecting young girls.
Mavusa said there was need to craft laws that protect young girls from mine workers because normally the juveniles would be enticed into indulging in early sex because of money.
“Naturally the communities do not benefit a lot and because of poverty young girls are enticed to do such things. We need protection on that. We cannot allow the future of our young girls to be tampered with all in the name of money,” she said adding that serious measures should be taken especially in Chiadzwa to address that.
Gilbert Makore from the Publish What You Pay campaign, which promotes transparency in the extractive sector said solidarity exchange visits are an important element that should be upheld in the country.
“The issue of solidarity is important because the communities are usually isolated therefore there is need for them to understand there are other communities facing similar challenges and experiences as a result of mining,” he said.
“We hope we have ignited the motivation within communities to continue working and advocating for their rights. There is another important aspect of networking and continuous sharing of strategies,” said Makore.
Besides sharing problems, the communities also worked on how to sustain themselves.
In Mutoko the villagers engage in serious horticulture which has sustained them for years now, something that is lacking in Chiadzwa.
Dende said market gardening was something which should be encouraged and mining companies should provide assistance to the villagers.
In Mutoko some companies complained that their plans to plough back to various communities are being affected by the poor uptake of black granite products in the country as well shrinking international markets.
In Zimbabwe there are black, grey, blue, brown and marble types of granite stones which are usually used for construction and decorative as well as monumental purposes.
The bulk of unpolished granite stones are exported into Europe.
Zimbabweans have also been accused of shunning locally made granite byproducts in favour of European imports
Mukasiri said there should be legislation to encourage consumption of products from black granite to avoid transfer pricing and increase collated economic benefits that come with beneficiation such as taxes, jobs.