Zim’s hopes lie in natural resources

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EDITOR — Manicaland played a very big role in the liberation struggle, with many losing family members yet the province is not benefiting much from its sacrifices.

Despite its vast mineral resources, tourist attractions, well educated workforce and proximity to the Indian Ocean, Manicaland has not developed as much as one would expect.

Following the land redistribution at the turn of the millennium, and the subsequent reduction in agricultural production — there has been prioritisation of other sectors in the economy of Zimbabwe such as mining.

The discovery of minerals such as diamonds in Chiadzwa and gold marked a new era in the region and Zimbabwe in general.

The national focus has now seemingly shifted from an agricultural-based economy to a mineral-rich resources-dependent economy.

Manicaland has a long history of mining and a large known resource base of diamond, gold and other deposits and has very good potential for further discoveries.

Given this rich endowment of natural resources, an array of stakeholders in the province including investors, government agencies, and civil society organisations,are of the view that these resources have not benefitted the province in as much as would be expected.

The province is rich in minerals and is gifted with some of the best tourist attractions but this has not been fully managed to convert this wealth for the benefit of the people.

Our regional government needs to know where to improve and what changes to make so that the region can harness this vast wealth for the benefit not only of current, but also future generations.

Manicaland is an attractive place for investment due to favourable geology, its long history of mining and a relatively favourable economic environment.

But the region’s positive aspects are overshadowed by the central government’s failure to fully harness the benefits that come with having vast natural resources.

During colonialism, communities have been historically denied even a share of that huge wealth, let alone legal rights of ownership.

Under the contemporary deregulated neo-liberal policy framework, the exploitation and plunder of natural resources, including minerals, by domestic corporates and multinational mining companies has intensified.

But the resistance by affected communities across the world has also grown and is reflected, over the years, in the establishment of an international framework through International Labour Organisation (ILO) and United Nations (UN) Conventions, which recognise in varying degrees the rights of indigenous communities to ownership, control and management of land and resources traditionally held by them either individually or as a community; the right to a decisive role in decision making for  development needs in their areas; and the right to prior, free and informed consent to any projects in their areas.

While these are encouraging advances won by the struggles and immense sacrifices of communities around the world, what is important is their translation into legal instruments in member countries.

The issue has immediate relevance for Zimbabwe following the introduction of the Community Share Ownership Trusts (CSOTs) which was established to ensure equity participation of communities affected by mining operations but this no longer has legal backing outside diamond and platinum sectors, following the gazetting of the Finance Act of 2018.

Following the failure of CSOTS set up by the late former president Robert Mugabe’s government to benefit poor communities in resource-rich areas, a new approach has to be adopted by creating a sustainable urban development plan through a collaborative community development initiative.

This initiative should involve all stakeholders that include local government, companies operating in the area, and the high quality participation of the entire community of the area.

Its purpose will be to address the shortcomings in the area and to propose an integrated, forward-looking approach to make the mining area attractive to its people and increase investment.

The Manicaland community initiatives should consider projects in the areas of infrastructure and urban development, environmental protection, local heritage, provision of water, power supply provision, educational improvement and employing only the local people.

All these projects should stimulate a more sustainable community.
In order to develop the project portfolio, there has to be initiative sponsored direct participation through an open house, technical tables, forums, and open committees.

For any country to develop, the community needs to develop.
It is the most common basic unit of society after the family and when there is development in the community, there is a general improvement in a nation’s economy and now is the time to create a Manicaland Development Trust (MDT) whose role is to spearhead the development of the communities.

The process for developing Manicaland and other provinces in the country involves bringing the communities together and creating a process where they work collectively towards finding solutions to the problems that affect them.

It is time to come together and come up with the same efforts and commitment to develop our lovely country Zimbabwe.

— Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi

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