BUSINESS mogul Mutumwa Mawere last week took his crusade to stop the banning of asbestos by First World countries to India where he spoke strongly about
the foreign currency-earning product that also contributes significantly to Zimbabwe’s housing efforts.
Zimbabwe earns more than US$40 million annually in asbestos export receipts.
In addition more than 6 000 individuals are directly employed in the asbestos industry and about 120 000 subsist from downstream activities.
Chrysotile asbestos, which has been mined in Zimbabwe from Shabanie Mashaba Mine in Zvishavane and Gaths Mine in Mashava does not exhibit the same harmful effects on human health as the banned blue and brown asbestos.
Chrysotile is the only type of fibre that has been mined commercially in Zimbabwe.
Mawere, whose empire benefits tremendously from asbestos exports, chairs the diversified and cash-rich Africa Resources Ltd (ARL) Group.
The group’s business interests span virtually every sector in Zimbabwe’s economy from mining to banking, agriculture, manufacturing, insurance as well as publishing.
Through various nominees, Mawere’s interests include mining houses such as Shabanie Mashaba Mine (SMM) and the African Associated Mines (AAM).
He also has interests in CFI Holdings Ltd, FSI Agricom, First Banking Corporation, Zimre Holdings, Turnall, Steelnet, General Beltings, Fidelity, NicozDiamond and Ukubambana-Kubatana Investments.
“Stakeholders who depend on chrysotile asbestos are many and its national significance may not be obvious to many but it is an integral part of the nation’s economic and social fabric,” Mawere said. “The need for stakeholders to come together to defend this national heritage and God-given mineral is more important now than ever before. It is not only our fibre but an ambassador to the world for it is sold to more than 53 countries including the European Union.”
Zimbabwe, backed by other world producers of chrysotile asbestos, last week foiled attempts to include crysotile asbestos fibre on the list of pesticides and industrial chemicals considered under the Rotterdam Convention as requiring consenting procedures for import and export between the countries that have signed the convention.
Last year at the International Labour Organisation annual meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, another attempt was again foiled to include a resolution that would have restricted the use of crysotile asbestos.
“The anti-asbestos lobby position is largely based on the environmental impact of blue and brown asbestos that have been banned in almost all countries in the world including Zimbabwe,” Mawere told executives gathered in India.
“The market has now accepted the need to differentiate between the different types of asbestos fibre following clear evidence on which type of asbestos is harmful.”
Ministers July Moyo of Labour and Edward Chindori-Chininga of Mines, Edmund Ruzive president of Associated Mine Workers Union and Philip Whitehead of Turnall Fibre Cement attended the conference.