Comment: Lifting of chrome ore export ban laudable

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Reports that government has lifted the ban on the export of chrome ore of up to 30 million tonnes to enable the sector to mobilise financial resources and invest in technology is a laudable gesture.

NewsDay comment

We believe the lifting of the ban was long overdue following the closure of chrome mines across the country. The moratorium was effected in 2011 to promote beneficiation.

It is an established fact that the arbitrary suspension of chrome exports did not only hurt the economy, but left thousands of people hurting after they were thrown onto the streets.

Mines and Mining Development minister Walter Chidakwa gave the threshold of up to 30 million tonnes of chrome ore to be subjected to review based on desired developments in the establishment of additional smelting capacity in the country.

Zimbabwe is yearning for fresh capital and it is possible to resuscitate the economy through the mining sector. What is required are the right policies going forward.

It is regrettable that Zanu PF has chosen to be blind to the plight of millions of Zimbabweans whose aspirations were shattered due to misrule by President Robert Mugabe’s government for over 35 years.

Downstream industries which benefited from chrome mining had collapsed since the closure while thousands of people were also retrenched.

Hence, Chidhakwa’s move shows seriousness on the part of the government to lure foreign investors. What also needs to be done is to ensure ease of business in Zimbabwe to build capital to resuscitate the ailing industry.

It is not clear why government did not rescind its decision way back when the country has seriously been bleeding at the hands of politicians especially Mugabe’s party.

It is true that government’s new measures will enable chrome ore producers to mobilise financial resources for capitalisation to invest in modern technology in smelting as well as address the plight of small-scale chrome ore producers.

Only last week one of the largest chrome producers in Kwekwe gave notice to its employees that the firm would retrench at least 500 workers due to viability challenges that their roots from chrome export ban.

There is no doubt that the ban on the export of chrome ore negatively affected all small-scale chrome ore producers, who lost their economic ventures and livelihoods.

In addition, the ban did not create opportunities for smelters to invest in new technology for expanded value addition and beneficiation.

According to Chidakwa, the government had also reviewed the current royalty fees for chrome ore from 2% to 5% while the export tax of 20% had been removed to allow chrome ore producers to generate income to increase smelting capacity.

The chrome industry must be allowed to operate viably so that it is able to create investment capacity in smelting and with government facilitation the industry could be back again to its yesteryears when they anchored Shurugwi and Kwekwe economies.

Zimbabwe has potential to produce chrome ore estimated at 1,5 million metric tonnes annually, but government measures scare away possible investors who want to invest in the sector.

If indeed, the chrome industry resuscitates at a faster rate, then the National Railways of Zimbabwe — another defunct State body — should be revamped completely going forward.

It is important for Zanu PF to avoid interfering in private business simply because they want to reap where they did not sow.

Zimbabwe must respect the rule of law and allow foreign investors to invest in the country. Zanu PF’s concentration on politics of succession does not build the economy, but simply destroys what the majority have worked for over years.
It does not matter who operates what in the chrome industry – the economy must improve.