Mberengwa has nothing to show for its minerals

Dr. Takavafira Zhou


Minerals brought more misery to locals than happiness

By Dr. Takavafira Zhou

This epistle examines the continued generation and perpetuation of poverty and underdevelopment in Mberengwa by intricate internal and external factors since independence despite the area’s abundant natural resources. It rejects the Rodney, Baran and Frank’s wailing and attribution of the underdevelopment as a product of external factors perse as disingenuous and intellectual deficient.

Mberengwa boost of abundant gold deposits, emerald, iron ore, tantalite and lime along the Mwezha range, asbestos, chrome, platinum and diamonds; extensive lime and cement deposits extending from Mt Mberengwa to Chomubhobho that Chinese have recently started exploring. Yet sound as Mberengwa is blessed with mineral and human wealth that has potential to transform the economy of Mberengwa, historically these resources have been more of a curse than a blessing, a blockage to development instead of a source of finance to foster sustainable development.

Responsible leadership, good governance, sustainable development and corporate social responsibility, are possible mechanisms for maximising benefits from natural resource utilisation. Sustainable development accepts the fact that development must be geared towards meeting the basic needs of the vast numbers of the poor in a country. Sustainable development is a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are made consistent with future as well as present needs. There are 3 mutually reinforcing pillars of sustainable development, viz, economic development, social development and environmental protection. An environmental impact assessment should be carried out before tapping and harnessing natural resources, let alone geological survey by gvt geologists in order to determine the quantity of resources. All these have been missing in Mberengwa with detrimental results.

An important component of corporate social responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as the local community and the society at large. In order to reduce domestic conflicts over access to natural wealth, the Zimbabwean gvt must put in place responsible, just and economically productive resource management system with equitable distribution of wealth to all stakeholders, in particular, local community. Conversely, corporate social responsibility is a vital link to the long-term prosperity of companies, and even a country, as it provides the opportunity to demonstrate the humane face of business/gvt and underscores the value of creating practical partnership and dialogue between business, gvt and communities.

An important component of corporate social responsibility is the increasing application of the shared value approach to resource utilisation and promotion of community development. This is based on the application of business strategies that not only deliver commercial and operational benefits to companies, but also deliver benefits to host communities at the same time. Preferential of employment of host community members is one way of shared value approach and involves little or no additional expenditure.

The greatest contribution that mines can possibly make to the overall Mberengwa development agenda is skills development and capacity building of the local communities which in turn guarantees maximum shared benefits. Investment in education, health and infrastructural development is also an appropriate shared value approach. Prevention of water pollution and increased supply of clean water not only to companies but also to host communities is a sure way of shared benefits. Arguably, in order to counter poverty and inequality in Mberengwa, gvt and mining companies must ensure that a greater share of natural-resource wealth is used for social services and development programmes that directly benefit local communities.

The fortunes of Mberengwa communities must be tied to the exploitation of natural resources in Mberengwa. It is for this reason that communities must be engaged from the exploration stage to development, maturity, decline and closure stages, and their input seriously considered. That Chinese in Neta and North of Mt Mberengwa are mining chrome/platinum and cement/lime, respectively without engagement of local people, let alone other mines, is a monument of injustice to the people of Mberengwa and indicative of poverty of leadership of the people of Mberengwa.

Resource owners should participate in planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluation, as well as dividends sharing of natural resource exploitation as per community shared value approach. Companies that exploit natural resources in Mberengwa make substantial contributions to National gvt in form of taxes and royalties. Sadly, such contributions hardly trickle down to Mberengwa communities that expect to benefit from their proximity to revenue generating natural resources. Corrupt leaders working in cohorts with foreign corporations owned by Chinese are borrowing environmental, economic and social capital from future generations with no prospects of paying back.

The presence of valuable natural resources is not, by itself, a curse destined to cause misery. However, when resources coincide with sultanism, statism, poverty of leadership, corruption, egocentricism, patronage, clientelism, and capital flight, the resource curse becomes more real than apparent as is the case in Mberengwa. The amount of capital siphoned out of Mberengwa exceeds the amount that comes in by way of foreign aid and investment. In this way it would be more judicious to remove the environmental factor that aggravates the capital shortage problem in Mberengwa than to seek the infusion of more capital from outside.

The exploitation of natural resources in Mberengwa has led to the development of underdevelopment of Mberengwa and underdevelopment of development as nothing is ploughed into local communities. There is urgent need to ensure shared benefits from deposits of natural resources in Mberengwa as opposed to natural resource plunder by mining companies in cohorts with elite leaders in Zimbabwe. With responsible leadership, corporate social responsibility and a new paradigm shift in developmental ethos it is possible for Mberengwa to benefit from it’s natural resources. There is need for building processing plants in Mberengwa in order ensure maximum beneficiation. Development knows no political party and must benefit the people of Mberengwa across the political divide.

Dr. Takavafira Zhou is a historian, unionist and son of Mberengwa soil

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