Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Samora Machel: Why we must keep remembering 19 October 1986.

Samora Machel
‘International Solidarity is not an act of charity: It is an act of unity between allies fighting on different terrains toward the same objective. The foremost of these objectives is to aid the development of humanity to the highest level possible.’-Samora Machel (September 29, 1933 – October 19, 1986)

On 19 October 1986, exactly thirty years ago today, Samora Machel, the revolutionary leader of Mozambique’s independence was murdered by the apartheid South Africa government.

The anniversary of Samora Machel’s assassination at the hands of apartheid South Africa should make progressive minded people look back at history and be reminded that there is still massive struggle to be waged. Samora Machel is inspirational on those of us who still hope and fight for a socialist world which will be based on free education, healthcare, shelter, economic and environmental justice…as well as serious wars on corruption, dictatorship, capitalism and poverty. This is what’s on my mind as I commemorate thirty years after the assassination of the poison of Samora Machel.

I have been to Mozambique three times, twice in 2013 and once in 2014; on two of these occasions I was attending the International Peasants’ Conference on Land. The conferences were hosted by the National Union of Mozambican Peasants (UNAC) in Maputo. On the other occasion I was passing through Tete Province on my way to attend the SADC Peoples’ Summit in Malawi.

The days in Maputo were very inspirational, due to both the fighting spirit and courage of the Mozambican people as well as the historical significance of Maputo, as evidenced even the street names and statues in the capital of the nation.

The writer at Beira International Airport, , Octber 2013
I was also fascinated because being a socialist myself, I was curious to observe how one of the most socialist nations in Africa at the time of its independence from fascist Portuguese rule in 1975, had fared through the years to 2013/4. The nation had gone through a brutal civil war and the economic onslaught of the international financial institutions as well as the rising threats of Chinese, Japanese and Brazilian investments in plantations and coal and gas mines.

As I see the investments projects that were apparently leaving behind the majority of the Mozambicans and enriching the political and economic elites, I couldn’t help wondering if the Mozambique struggle hadn’t been long betrayed. Then I realised that almost all African nationalists fought colonialism and imperialism on the premise of establishing just, socialist Pan-African societies that would be in perpetual solidarity with other oppressed nations around the world. But that is a struggle betrayed.

 The struggle for a more just and equal world has long since been betrayed in Mozambique itself, Zimbabwe, Angola and South Africa. It is however up to progressive minds to continue fighting for a more just and equal future for the impoverished masses of the African people. The choice now is socialism.

[Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is an activist and lawyer based in Harare, Zimbabwe. He tweets at @LeninChisaira and is interested in Economic Justice, Human Rights, Leftist Politics and Environmental Justice. He blogs at ]

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Prof Jonathan Moyo and the ZIMDEF scandal: The arrogance of being ethically ignorant.

Prof Jonathan Moyo (Newsday)
Professor Jonathan Moyo has been the top newsmaker this October. He has employed breath-taking arrogance via social media and at the Madziwa Teachers’ College graduation ceremony trying to dismiss mounting allegations of corruption and unethical conduct on his part as Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development. The main focus was on allegations of abuse of power and of outright looting by the Minister as the trustee of the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (ZIMDEF). With reports that he is being investigated by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission over misuse of ZIMDEF’s US$430 000, the Minister has arrogantly given statements to the effect that either the money misused either too little or had been used to fund national events. The last straw he has clutched at, was in very publicly likening himself to Robin Hood, indicating that he was taking from the rich and giving to the poor.
The Robin Hood angle has been overplayed
A shot from a Robin Hood film
As said before, in one of his defences, the Minister likened himself to the fictional character Robin Hood. Robin Hood, an historic English outlaw who was great at archery and would rob the rich to give to the poor, is a great character when it comes to the political discourse on distribution of wealth. Unfortunately for the Minister, his deputy Godfrey Gandawa and the latter’s phony company Fuzzy Technologies which is at the centre of the alleged misuse of public funds, Robin stole from the rich. The ZIMDEF fund from which the Minister and his accomplices stole from is by no means a fund for the rich, rather it is a fund meant to, among other things which are associated with the development of poor students and apprentices, provide for and promote the research, planning and development of human resources. At least these are some of the objectives outlined in the Manpower Planning and Development Act [Chapter 28:02].
Arrogance and Ignorance
It is surprising how ‘big’ people in Zimbabwe can be arrogant when they are so ignorant about ethics. Zimbabwe does not have a leadership code and the progressive 1984 Zanu Pf Leadership Code has long since been so violated that it has now become an empty code. But that is no excuse for the arrogance being displayed by Ministers when they are found with their hands in the public coffers. Some have allegedly stolen money from parastatals, bought the latest cars and called it pocket money; others have built extravagant houses and yet others have stayed in hotels whilst dismissing good houses and whilst their own voters, workers and supporters continue to live in slums and badly-serviced neighbourhoods.
Despite all these shenanigans, very few serious investigations have been conducted. This sends wrong signals and office holders in Zimbabwe seem to feel that stealing from state coffers is tolerable by both law enforcement agents and the generality of the mases. Hence it is important that the public, activists, media, opposition and law enforcement agencies be vigilant and treat the ZIMDEF case with the seriousness it deserves.
Factionalism or not, government perpetrators must face the music
It is a play on the intelligence of the Zimbabwean people when public office holders hide behind their own political party infightings to brush aside allegation of abuse of public funds. The current trend by Zanu PF ministers of blaming factionalism whilst ignoring the serious charges they face is becoming nauseating. We do not care about the factional politics in the ruling party, we are concerned when the people we entrust with public office and public resources abuse the same resources and the same duties with impunity.
 Whilst every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, Prof Moyo and his colleagues must not play hide and seek games with the law. To quote a line from New York Times to Donald Trump recently, it is time that we welcome the opportunity for the unethical views and arrogance of the Minister and his colleagues to be made right by a court of law. We also welcome the chance for the same courts to correct the Minister’s arrogance and ethical ignorance and to show him and his accomplices the correct ways, holders of public office and public funds, are supposed to follow.

 [Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is an activist and lawyer based in Harare, Zimbabwe. He tweets at @LeninChisaira and is interested in Economic Justice, Human Rights, Leftist Politics and Environmental Justice. He blogs at ]

Monday, 10 October 2016

Mine Workers in Zimbabwe: A forgotten and divided force in the environmental justice movement.

Mine workers at a Zimbabwean mine (AFP)
Mine workers around the world have been known for occasionally rising up in powerful resistance against the cruel power of naked capitalism. From the 1985 Coal Miners Strike in the United Kingdom to the 2012 Lonmin Marikana wage strike by platinum miners and the 2015 strike by gold miner’s families in Gwanda, these workers highlighted their potential for solidarity and defence of their dignity as human beings.

Zimbabwe, as a resource-rich nation, is beginning to make strides towards an alignment of the forces fighting for labour justice with the ones fighting for environmental justice. In the past, the local environmental justice movement has gained momentum but the disconnect between labour and environmental justice has been noticeable. It goes without saying that the lack of cohesion between such forces was a threat to the promise for a sustainable future for humanity.

Furthermore, mine workers in Zimbabwe continue to be organised (or disorganised) within too many trade unions and these are ostensibly at loggerheads with each other. At the moment mine workers are organised into the National Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe (NMWUZ), Associated Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe (AMWUZ) and the Zimbabwe Diamond Workers Union (ZIDAWU). NMWUZ is an affiliate of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) whilst ZIDAWU was formed in August 2012 and registered as a trust.

Historically, mine workers in Zimbabwe through these many trade unions, were focusing on mere wage struggles and were not greatly concerned the environmental or the degradation caused by their labour power. However, there is usually some connection when mine workers fight for occupational health and safety (OHS) since OHS issues are environmental justice issues as well as well as labour rights.

The major problems facing mine workers in Zimbabwe were recently articulated by the National Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe during the 2016 Zimbabwe Alternative Mining Indaba (ZAMI) organised by public interest law group, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA).

The major cause of mining accidents are shoddy environmental protection and rehabilitation policies by profit-seeking mining companies. Hence injuries and fatalities in Zimbabwe’s mines are usually due to poor engineering designs in functional mine and poor rehabilitation of disused mines , leading to the death of ‘illegal’ miners. Workers are exposed to dust, silica and harmful chemicals like mercury as well as being forced to work in claustrophobic shafts with poor lighting, poor ventilation and poor water pumping systems.

The effects of these environmental and economic injustices and labour violations paint the dire picture shown in the tables below:  

Table 1: Percentage Distribution of Injured Persons by Age Group, 2013 (Source: NSSA/NMWUZ)
10 – 14 Years
15 – 19 Years
20 – 24 Years
25 – 29 Years
30 – 34 Years
35 – 39 Years
40 – 44 Years
45 – 49 Years
50 – 54 Years
55 – 59 Years
60 – 64 Years
65+ Years
Not stated

Table 2: Fatal Injuries by Industrial Sector, 2010 – 2014 (Source: NSSA/NMWUZ)
Mining & Quarrying

The most viable and sustainable future for the mine workers in Zimbabwe can be attained through collaboration with other groups who are courageously campaigning for environmental and economic justice in the mining and extractive sectors. These groups include mining community rights groups, environmental justice associations and even the so-called independent commissions like the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission. But above all, mine workers need to begin re-aligning their forces and working in harmony with each other as well as in solidarity with powerful mine unions beyond borders. The current divisions in the Zimbabwe’s mining trade unions movement will not advance the cause of mine workers or the global campigns for a world that is free from environmental degradation and human rights violations. Aluta.
[Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is an activist and lawyer based in Harare, Zimbabwe. He tweets at @LeninChisaira and is interested in Economic Justice, Human Rights, Leftist Politics and Environmental Justice. He blogs at ]

Monday, 26 September 2016

Zimbabwe’s gold mines are a permanent curse for working class black people

By Lenin Tinashe Chisaira

A discussion with 'illegal' gold miners
in Runde District , early 2016
On Thursday 22 September 2016, the mining community and the nation at large received the sad news of the death of at least eight 'illegal' black miners following the collapse of Giles 18 Gold Mine in Concession, Mazowe District in the Mashonaland Central province of Zimbabwe.

The unfortunate death of the miners in an alleged gold rush, brings to question the vulgar nature of wealth distribution in Zimbabwe.  The gold rush which was barely a week old attracted gold miners from many parts of the country. Ironically, the mine collapse which was a result of the gold rush occurred on the same week that the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy was conducting nationwide public hearings on the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill. The hearings were fertile with debates over the merits and demerits of a proposed Safety, Health and Rehabilitation Fund as well as calls for the formalisation of the so-called ‘illegal’ miners sector.

The Mazowe tragedy comes barely a month after an ‘illegal’ miner was gunned down in cold blood by security guards at Mettalon Gold owned Redwing Mine in Penhalonga in Manicaland Province.

These incidents expose a number of issues. Top amongst these is the exposure of the bad economic governance and incompetence of the present government. In such an environment, thousands of promising, healthy and strong young people just throw caution to the winds and risk their young lives panning for gold in the most dangerous of circumstances. With dangerously high levels of unemployment in the country, many people do not have the luxury of demanding safe working conditions. Furthermore, they do not even have the time to calculate risks before venturing into disused mines and even registered mine concessions to eke out livings from accessible gold that is scavenged either through the use of gold detectors or from the risky practice of digging at mine pillars; the latter practice also takes place at state-owned Sabi Gold Mine in Runde District in the Midlands Province.

An excavator searches for trapped 'illegal' miners
at Giles 18 Mine, Concession (The Herald)
The mine collapse and shooting of ‘illegal’ black miners highlight a racist and elitist sector which has never adequately opened up for the genuine empowerment of the local working class black populace. When the indigenisation and economic empowerment craze hit the nation, any illusion of genuine mass empowerment was shattered within a short space of time. The fruits of empowerment were merely transferred from a few whites to a few blacks who were already at the top of the political and economic food chain. This has perpetuated the suffering of the ordinary working class black in Zimbabwe.

Another case in point was the wave of mine workers’ family strikes that hit Vubachikwe Gold Mine in Gwanda. A hearing on the mine called by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, led by Hon. Justice Wadyajena unwittingly exposed that some top black lawyers in Harare were amongst the major shareholders of Duration Gold, the company behind Vubachikwe. This is heart-retching considering that such a mine had seen the suffering of the black mine workers as well as an arrogant reluctance to comply with even basic progressive elements of environmental law and indigenisation and economic empowerment policy; the latter being evidenced by the refusal of Duration Gold to allocate a negligible part of mine profits to the development projects of the Gwanda Community Share Ownership Scheme.

There is need for genuine people-centred policies in the Zimbabwean gold mining sector. Otherwise politicking and lack of accountability will only lead to more unfortunate deaths, either at the hands of sadistic mine guards, environmental hazards such as the Giles 18 Mine collapse or via the self-centered economics of the new black political and economic elites.

[Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is an activist and lawyer based in Harare, Zimbabwe. He tweets at @LeninChisaira and is interested in Economic Justice, Human Rights, Leftist Politics and Environmental Justice. He blogs at]

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Masvingo Parliamentary Hearings: A Call for Communal Mining and stronger environmental rehabilitation measures.

#MMAB Daily Updates- Day 2

The Parly portfolio committee in Masvingo
Participants in the City of Masvingo during the second day (20 September 2016) of the ongoing nationwide parliamentary public hearings on the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill have rightfully called for model mines to be set up in all mining districts for the benefit of the poor sectors of society who cannot afford to pay for mining rights and titles. There were also demands for stronger environmental rehabilitation measurers. The hearing was conducted at Masvingo Civic Centre and started at 1000hrs.

The participants however highlighted a lack of prior knowledge of the contents of the Bill, for instance most of the contributors had not read about the criteria for classifying strategic minerals. Some ended up wrongly identifying gold as a strategic mineral. The representative of the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development, Ms Viriri however was handy enough to give a brief overview of the Bill, and in the overview she explained other new concepts such as the proposed introduction of an electronic cadastral systems as well as certain changes in the duration for prospecting licenses.

As the public hearings continue, certain similar concerns continue to crop up in the mining communities. These include worries over the proposed immense powers being given to the Mining Affairs Board. The participants also suggested that there should be a specified percentage given to farmers by miners who operate on agricultural land.

Support from the people towards the establishment of the Safety, Health and
The writer during the hearing in Masvingo
Rehabilitation (SHR) Fund continues to grow. Suggestions were that Miners should pay up to 5% of their net profits  towards the fund, since the environment has been destroyed and society cannot afford to be lenient bout issues that affect future generation.

Another brilliant suggestion was that the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development as the administrator of the SHR Fund should bear responsibility over damages done by mining to humans and animal health or life.

There were legitimate concerns that Government shouldn’t run riverbed mining as is being proposed by Schedule 2 of the Bill. The reason being that state-run mining companies such as Sabi Gold have already closed due to bad management. This was similar to concerns raised during Day 1 of the hearings in Mberengwa.

For day three, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy will be moving to the Bikita and Marange communities.

[ZELA will be giving daily updates on the parliamentary public hearings on the Mines and Minerals Bill. On social media, please follow hashtag: #MMAB]
ZELA: Using the law to protect and preserve the environment.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Mberengwa: Parliamentary Public Hearings on the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill kick off

#MMAB Public Hearings Updates- Day 1

A community representative makes a point
Parliamentary public hearings on the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill kicked off today (19 September 2016) in the mining district of Mberengwa in the Midlands Province. The public hearing is part of a planned weeklong series which will be held across the country in the mining areas of Mberengwa, Bikita, Marange, Bindura and Penhalonga among others. The public hearings are legally conducted in terms of section 141 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which provides for public participation in parliamentary processes.

In Mberengwa the hearing was convened at the Mberengwa Community Hall. Mberengwa is home to the once vibrant Sandawana Mine and small scale gold mining operations and thus the interest in the hearing was depicted by the high turnout.

Members of Parliament at the hearing
The Mines and Energy portfolio chairperson, Hon Daniel Shumba indicated that  the purpose of the Mines Bill public hearings is to address some of the challenges within the 1961 enacted Mines and Minerals Act. Various stakeholders attended the meeting ranging from local communities, small scale miners, local authorities, traditional leaders and government departments from the area and Zvishavane.

The hearing centred on 15 key issues within the Bill on which public opinion was being sought. The issues include: 

The identification of Strategic Minerals
Some of the participants
Composition of the Mining Affairs Board
The Cadaster of Mining Rights and Titles,
Exclusive Prospecting Licenses,
Farmer-Miner Relations,
Compulsory Acquisition of Land
Application of a Mining Licence/Lease 
Safety, Health and Rehabilitation Fund
Beneficiation of Minerals
Disputes in Mining
Prohibition of child labour.
Riverbed Mining by State Joint Ventures 
Utilisation of Financial Institutions
‘Use it or lose it’ Policy
Payments to Local Authorities

Some of the issues raised by the Mberengwa community relating to strategic minerals was on the need to include gold and diamonds by virtue of their strategic contribution the socio-economic development of the country.

Another matter of great concern was the proposed composition of the Mining Affairs Board. The Mberengwa and Zvishavane stakeholders stated that the board should include representatives of affected communities. Small scale miners felt , rightly, that due to their increasing role in the local economy, there ought to have more representation in the board as compared to large scale miners. A woman miner from Mberengwa with a heart problem was emotional about the unethical contestation of awarding of mining claims based on corruption and possibly an issue which the mining cadaster system can address.

The communal farmer-miner conflict that is apparent in the Zimbabwe mining sector was raised. The hearings in Mberengwa came up with demands for farmers to be entitled to agreed percentages on the mineral proceeds on their lands. Another interesting submission was that farmers should have land rights that include whatever is beneath the ground and above the ground.

The Mines Bill provides for a Safety, Health and Rehabilitation Fund relating to the maintenance of safety and environmental management in the mining sector. 
The reservation for riverbed mining for joint ventures by the States was strongly condemned. Major outcry was on the failure by government to undertake viable state-owned mining operations like Sabi and Jena Gold Mines. The participants proposed the government like all other actors not to be involved in river bed mining as this was deemed unsustainable.

In addition to these issues, there were legitimate concerns that the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill had not been given timeously and that too much powers have been given to the Minister and the Permanent Secretary in the ministry of mines. The people also indicated that there should be parliamentary oversight over the Ministry’s power over the cadasters system and the granting of licenses. If such views and concerns from the people are taken into consideration, Zimbabwe can have a more progressive mining legal framework that can better save the environmental, economic and social justice for the people.

[ZELA will be giving daily updates on the parliamentary public hearings on the Mines and Minerals Bill. On social media, please follow hashtag: #MMAB]
ZELA: Using the law to protect and preserve the environment.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill: Another week of piecemeal parliamentary hearings?

The writer at a small scale gold mine in Mberengwa
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy will be going around the country conducting public hearings on the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill from 19 to 24 September 2016.
 The history of such hearings in Zimbabwe has been characterised by very minimal participation and attendance from members of the public. Where the few numbers had participated, at best the submissions have been mired in box-ticking and lack of basic understanding about the parliamentary processes and at worst by partisan violence as was witnessed during similar hearings on the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill in June 2016. Regrettably, the only meaningful submissions are usually from civil society, consultant companies and private business, whose voices are normally suppressed.
It would be sad if such a norm is repeated during the upcoming parliamentary public hearings for the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill. The bill covers a sector which is not only economically strategic, but which has also been mired by scandals such as environmental, labour and human rights violations.
Itinerary for team A during the public hearing
The extractive sector is potentially disastrous if it is not effectively regularised and managed. In Zimbabwe, the sector has made the gift of nature ugly, caused thousands of families to become paupers and created a few rich elites managing large mining companies which continue to play hide and seek games through tax avoidance, low wages, illicit financial flows and tampering with financial books. It is no wonder that one of the greatest books to come in recent times, dealing with the ill -governance in African natural resources, has a whole chapter dedicated to Zimbabwe. The book is “The Looting Machine:  Warlords, Tycoons, Smugglers and the Systematic Theft of Africa's Wealth(2015, Willian Collins, London.) by Financial Times journalist Tom Burgis.
Discussions with miners and people who are settled in the mining districts of Gwanda, Zvishavane, Shurugwi, Hwange, Penhalonga, Mutoko, Bindura and Marange, among others, indicates that much work needs to be done for the planned parliamentary public hearings to be effective.
For starters, the people need to be educated more on the bills and parliamentary processes, e.g., how bills come into being. There is lack of information on parliamentary processes. Though the information is available in the Constitution, it is apparent that even during the 2013 Constitutional Referendum, a vast majority of the people who voted ‘Yes’ participated in a blindfold.
The strategic grouping of artisanal and small scale miners seems to have been let down by the draft Bill so far. This sector will continue to have a token single seat in the Mining Affairs Board regardless of the growing importance of artisanal and small scale mines to mineral output and employment creation. The small scale gold mining sector employs about 500 000 and in 2015 produced 7,4 tonnes out of the 18 tonnes produced countrywide, hence by calculation that was 40% of total gold production according to the Zimbabwe Miners Federation.
Other stakeholders in the mining industry such as labour, community members, civil society and environmental rights campaigners have also been largely ignored during the drafting processes. If there was consultation, it does not show in the Amendment Bill. To be fair, however, a handful of non-governmental organisations such as the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST) and the Centre for Natural Resources’ Governance (CNRG) have done a sterling job of conducting research, pre-parliamentary hearing meetings, bill analyses and mobilisation.
It is, however, acknowledged that the Bill has some good provisions, mainly the proposed introduction of the Safety, Health and Rehabilitation Fund. The fund is aimed at rehabilitating environmental degradation caused by mining activities and, if managed effectively, will complement a similar fund that already exists. The latter is called the Environmental Fund and is provided for in the Environmental Management Act and managed by the Environmental Management Agency.
The Mines and Minerals Act should have been wholly overhauled after nationwide consultations, not piecemeal parliamentary public hearings. The Act should also have taken the progressive position of including mine labour since these are the direct creators of mineral wealth as well as the class which is exposed to the major dangers in the mining process. It is also the class which has been unjustly exploited both in Zimbabwe (evidenced by family strikes at Vubachikwe Gold Mine in 2015 and outside (South Africa’s Marikana Massacre in August 2012). In coming up with a piecemeal bill, Zimbabwe will only move a few steps beyond the colonial-capitalist 1961 Mines and Minerals Act. That will be potentially very unfortunate in terms of wasted time, financial and human resources.
[Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is an activist and lawyer based in Harare, Zimbabwe. He tweets at @LeninChisaira and is interested in Economic Justice, Human Rights, Leftist Politics and Environmental Justice. He blogs at ]