BY VENERANDA LANGA
SHURUGWI South MP Edmond Mkaratigwa (Zanu PF) took over the chairmanship of the Mines Committee from vocal Norton MP Temba Mliswa, at a time when many people were wondering what would happen to one of the most pivotal committees in Parliament.
The Mines committee was reconstituted after Mliswa almost traded blows with Chegutu West MP Dexter Nduna (Zanu PF) when the committee was investigating issues around the Hwange Colliery
Company corruption saga that nearly brought the giant coal miner to its knees. Mliswa and Nduna were removed from the committee and Mkaratigwa appointed chairperson.
The committee deals with very sensitive issues in the mineral sector which is dogged with corruption, illicit financial flows and smuggling.
Accountability and transparency is needed, including Parliamentary oversight over the mining sector. A competent chairperson with the ability to probe without fear, is critical for such
Mkaratigwa describes himself as a “hands-on” electrical tech engineer-cum-marketing executive, businessman and politician who is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Energy and
Sustainability with the University of Cumbria in the United Kingdom.
“I was born and bred by Zanu PF parents and I grew up from being a party youth to vice-chairperson of Guruguru South youth league. I chose Zanu PF because in my view, it is the only
party rooted in a political philosophy that is historically traceable and has a broad ideology; the party has never lost focus on,” he said.
“The party has also embarked on the new trajectory of transforming itself to suit new national characteristics as well as the renewed aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe, and yet on
the contrary, a host of other political parties in Zimbabwe lack that foundation, hence I opted for Zanu PF where young leaders are nurtured by fellow experienced, decorous and mature
leaders,” he said.
During the 2018 Zanu PF primary elections, Mkaratigwa competed and won against former Sports deputy minister Tapiwa Matangaidze. He says he easily trounced Matangaidze because he was
not a competent MP.
“I can categorically state that I am the MP for Shurugwi South, particularly because of what my predecessor did not do right. He succumbed to the temptations that often lead one to lose
touch with the constituency when engrossed in power,” he said.
“Once one loses that touch with the grassroots, it also raises questions regarding whose new interests you will now be representing, if not only personal, thereby defeating the whole
purpose of the foundational concept of parliamentarism and parliamentary democracy, upon which our existence as MPs rests.”
“In short, he did not move with the winds of change, again like the Biblical Lot’s wife, remained stuck in old Zanu PF utopia, and fell into disfavour of the adaptively transforming
Zanu PF party, philosophy and electorate at the dawn of the new dispensation (President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s era).”
After taking over from Mliswa, murmurs have, however, been doing the rounds in the corridors of Parliament that the committee has been weakened since it has not held any public hearings
after the fracas that caused Mliswa and Nduna to be chucked out of the committee. The Mines Committee was the most vibrant one in Parliament.
But Mkaratigwa insisted that he was a very competent chairperson and soon, the committee would revive its vibrancy.
In the past, the Mines Committee produced damning reports which exposed bigwigs in the diamond mining sector, as well as serious transparency and accountability issues.
“The committee will soon be more visible, and I can categorically state that it is now stronger and we have amazing support from our partners. Naturally, a committee is as strong as its
entire membership and I can confirm that it is now even stronger,” he said.
The Mines Committee chairperson said the committee was already seized with a lot of issues bedevilling the mining sector, which will need its attention.
“One of the main issues is the need for the mining sector to lead from the front toward the much-awaited attainment of what I can call the Zimbabwean Dream, which is the Socio-Economic
Transformation Agenda for Zimbabwe in line with His Excellency’s Vision 2030. The country needs foreign currency and we have valuable mineral resources, both underground and in safes,
at our institutions,” Mkaratigwa said.
“Hence, the committee is working at unlocking that value through looking into ways of strengthening existing and discovering new minerals marketing strategies. In addition, the
committee will also focus on the minerals value chain with a view to attaining cost-cutting measures that ensure full value benefits to miners, communities living around mines and the country at large.”
He added that the committee, under his leadership, would not tolerate corruption, excessive bureaucratic formalism that hinders development and efficiency, and would ensure this ends in any of the departments and agencies that the committee oversees.
“Our approach is mainly of creating a water-tight legal framework that plugs out former corruption promoting spongy systems. We are not going to be amused with playing to the gallery
through surface coating, as we are more concerned with addressing root-causes and practically, decimating remnants of prior core negative administrative legacies, towards achieving
sustainably tangible solutions for posterity,” the Shurugwi South legislator said.
“Our approach is, therefore, more hands-on and developmentally co-operative, where necessary, and not some mere dishonest public relations or mass-wooing frolics, which have created
fear and dislike to volunteer information for fear of victimisation among stakeholders, yet promoting negative privilege for the same committees captaincy to become more corrupt and
tyrannical, though professing to be real saviours atop.”
Mkaratigwa, however, noted that he could not, at the moment, promise the Mines Committee would grill any bigwigs pertaining to corruption in the mining sector.
“It will be unfair for me to say we will invite bigwigs, while we do not have any evidence of that need yet. However, anyone with a government responsibility should be taken seriously
going forward. We will not basically be fault finding or witch-hunting, but co-operative and complimentary, where honesties are displayed, in order to trouble-shoot root-causes,
although in general, we remain true to our duty, to ensure that officers are answerable for their actions, in all spheres of their jurisdiction, to ensure envisaged state efficiency,”
While bigwigs might later be invited by the committee to give oral evidence, the major focus by the Mines Committee would not be the person’s position, but whatever issues that have a
national interest which is superior to the personal interest, the legislator said.
Asked to give reasons why the Mines Committee had not had any oral evidence gathering sessions since it was reconstituted on February 5 this year, Mkaratigwa said the committee was
seized with equipping itself with the full understanding of the mines sector, both at local and international levels.
“We have, therefore, been silently engaging with our different stakeholders and we are now well capacitated although capacitation is in itself an endless process. Investigations will
begin mainly in the up-coming session and already we have noticed many gap areas in the gold mining sector,” he said.