“The cattle sometimes die after drinking water from the gullies and it could be contaminated by chemicals and no one seems to care. All they want is money.”
Independent economist John Robertson explained that emerging mining companies, which the government is heavily involved in, were different from multi-nationals that tend to cater for the welfare of local communities. “Some of these multi-nationals have management teams running the equivalent of municipalities, complete with hospitals, schools, housing schemes. This is where they differ from the indigenous and emerging extracting companies where rules don’t seem to apply and greed rules,” Robertson told IPS.
The expansion of mining activities in Marange has claimed much of the land used by locals for subsistence, and also community infrastructure, such as dams, that provided water for market gardening. Small business such as shops and stalls were closed down,” Melanie Chiponda, the director of Chiadzwa Community Development Trust, a lobby group promoting the rights of local villagers whose communities border the mining field, told IPS.
“The mines have created a dependency syndrome among the households. They are hardly involved in corporate social responsibility activities and the people are secondary. It is all about profits and never the people, who are incapacitated to negotiate for better arrangements,” she said. Chiponda said people were worse off since they had been relocated as they mostly lived on food handouts from humanitarian agencies and on donations from the mines. She added that a large number of children dropped out of school and are helping to support their families by selling firewood.
Freeman Bhoso, the executive director at the Zimbabwe Natural Resources Dialogue Forum, a non-profit advocacy organisation seeking to promote the sustainable extraction of the country’s resources, told IPS that because mining concessions were granted behind closed doors, it left loopholes that made communities vulnerable.
“The way in which the concessions are granted by the government is wrong because it excludes communities. There is no transparency and it seems they are given along politically partisan lines. In most cases, environmental impact assessments are done well after mining starts,” he said. Bhoso accused the companies of failing to distribute money from the community share ownership trusts announced by the government. According to Zimbabwe’s Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, foreign-owned mining companies are required to transfer 51 percent of their shares to locals. This money was meant to placed in the community ownership trusts and distributed among affected communities. “The main problem is that the government is heavily involved in these joint ventures and operations tend to take a political dimension,” said Bhoso.