Politicians frustrate crucial mining reforms

0
266
Mines minister Winston Chitando

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

A LEADING resources campaigner has claimed that Zimbabwe’s elite are reluctant to push through amendments to the Mines Act, a 60-year-old legislation that has outlived its usefulness.

The Zimbabwe Coalition for Debt and Development (Zimcodd) added its voice to discontentment over delays in passing the 2015 Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, saying politicians were benefiting from the status quo.

The Bill seeks to shift the industry’s terrain by improving several sections that were relevant when the present legislation was enacted in 1963, but have been overtaken by events.

It contains provisions to resolve farmer-miner disputes, along with regularising artisanal mining, among others.

“The ills associated with the mining sector in Zimbabwe are largely blamed on delays in the finalisation of the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill,” Zimcodd said in its latest policy digest.

“The reasons for the delay are sketchy yet all due processes were done including public consultations which were conducted as far back as 2016 during the (late former President Robert Mugabe)’s administration. Now, six years down the line, it is still work in progress. There is a high likelihood that there is lack of political will on the part of the Executive to ensure the Bill is finalised,” it said.

The Bill came into the picture following extensive campaigns to amend the Mines and Minerals Act, which many felt lacked provisions to stem rampant mineral revenue leakages, and was replete with opaque licensing regimes that propped up big players. Those pushing for radical changes said the 60-year-old Act promoted poor tax and royalty flows into State coffers, while perpetuating corruption and human rights violations.

In January, Chinese firms confirmed that there were serious legislative flaws, which they have been using as a weapon to displace Zimbabwean villagers to set up operations. Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi recently said that the Bill would be re-tabled in Parliament before being passed into law.

But mining representative bodies are planning to petition both Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando and Parliament to stop the reading. They said while consultations took place before the President turned down the Bill in 2020 and returned it to the Attorney-General’s office, it may have had changes that required fresh consultations.

“This raises concern whether the government is willing to amend the Mines and Minerals Act or not. This is aggravated by the fact that, word from the mining industry is that the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs ministry is now more concerned about the statutory instrument that seeks to formalise artisanal and small-scale mining than the Bill,” said Zimcodd. “This is worrisome, as it might also imply that the government is satisfied with the provisions in the Mines and Minerals Act.”

The Bill has clauses and provisions that are essential in unlocking the US$12 billion mining industry which will result in a 334% jump from the current US$2,9 billion mining industry.