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 ]

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Cde Thomas Deve: Remembering the life of an activist (Dec 1962-Sept. 2014)

By Lenin Tinashe Chisaira

Cde Thomas Deve(right) seated next to this writer
during the 2013 Zimbabwe Social Forum
This month, two years ago, journalist, civil society activist, leftist and Pan-Africanist Thomas Deve died at the age of 52. He suffered a cardiac arrest in the early hours of 7 September 2014, barely a month after attending the SADC People's in Bulawayo. Besides Justice Andrew Mutema, the High Court Judge and national hero who made a ruling that made the University of Zimbabwe reinstate me back to school after an unjust indefinite suspension for student activism, Cde Thomas Deve is the only other person whom I have decided to make time and write an obituary on, albeit after a two year delay.
I met Cde Thomas Deve soon after I finished law school and was working for a civil society that dealt with social and economic justice. Cde Deve’s workplace and mine were housed on the same premises in the Eastlea suburb of Harare. We got along very well and he quickly became an unofficial mentor, mainly due to our shared leftist world outlook. It was also rather ironic that the last activity he made a presentation at was a media sensitization workshop on the right to water that I had organised for journalists in central Harare.
Within a week of that workshop, I and the world heard of his passing in the early hours of that September weekend. Obviously he had spent the night at a show at the Book Café which featured Transit Crew, the reggae band that he loved, followed and reportedly mentored.
The ideals of Cde Deve were well-rooted in leftist politics and movement building. The discussions that we shared were almost always focused on the methods he and his comrades have tried to open up a leftist student organisation whilst at university. Later on, he had dedicated his life to research and campaigning against the harmful effects of globalization and capitalism in the Southern African region as well as the entire Third Word.
In following his ideals, he worked either directly or as a consultant for organisations such as the Deep Roots Foundation, Southern African Trade Information and Negotiation Institute (SEATINNI), Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe chapter (MISA) and the Southern Africa Political Economy Series Trust (SAPES). He was also greatly active in forums such as the Zimbabwe Social Forum and the SADC People’s Summit.
With his passing, it was obvious that some civil society movements of which he had been a key advisor or anchor of, were going to go under mainly as a result of ideologically bankrupt programming. It is also disheartening to note that forums such as the Zimbabwe Social Forum of which he was a key participant and which we were both instrumental in organising in 2013, was last held in three years ago. Efforts to resuscitate such a critical platform any time soon appear very remote.
With a 2016 that has seen the rise of protests in the country, it is anyone’s guess that such activism in the absence of basic theoretical understanding of elementary political economy are bound to go round in circles.
In a year like this, Zimbabwe and the Third World must surely miss one of the most dedicated leftist activists and journalists of our time, in the name of Cde Thomas Deve. Adieu.
 [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 ]