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Let’s Take Charge of our Resources

THE Zimbabwean government must not wait for any of the rich countries to bail it out of its economic quagmire.

It is a question of whether we can adopt or formulate a new Mines and Minerals act in order to get maximum benefit from our precious minerals which are currently being exploited in very large quantities.

More developed countries are experiencing financial instability; even our big brother South Africa is also affected. Our appeal for financial assistance to the same countries will be given a cold shoulder even if we cry from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

If the credit crunch reaches boiling point then Africa will be the hardest hit. It will become a one country for itself and God for the others scenario. We have the capacity to make the Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme (Sterp) work. Zimbabwe is full of men and women with big brains behind them that political will prevailing, are capable of repairing our economy.

There are several highly qualified technocrats and experts in different types of industries so we only need a minimal number of expatriates.

The current Mines and Minerals Act allows our most precious minerals to be 100% owned by an individual or foreigners which deprives the entire nation from getting maximum benefit.

Diamonds, gold and platinum are a God given gift to a country which must not be allowed to be wholly owned by an individual or foreign company.

These should be state resources of which the state is the custodian of the entire nation. The scenario should be that in any diamond exploration and future mining ventures, the state must secure a 50% stake –– not through capital injection but by way of owning the land with the resources as part of its contribution.

This is in-fact what is happening in neighbouring countries such as Namibia, Botswana and South Africa and this approach has contributed immensely to their economic development. We must hurry and amend our Mines and Minerals Act before it is too late because minerals are exhaustible and mining activity has a limited lifespan.  

Central bank governor Gideon Gono once acknowledged that the country was losing over US$300 million a month on elicit outflows of diamonds alone. The diamond industry is so unique that if you fail to follow the required marketing standards set out by the producing countries, you are bound to make much less profit.

Vast knowledge and technical expertise is the motto of this unique industry. It is the reason why most of our diamonds are being exported as run-off-mine or rough form. This means that determination of the actual price tag is done outside the country again as a result of improper mechanisms.

My other advice is to speed up formulation of mining policies and recall current producers to inform them of changes. On new precious mineral ventures, the government must only consider companies with high technical and financial capacity to make it a viable venture.

The sale of our diamonds through tender systems also deprives the local entrepreneurs who intend to enter or initiate development of this industry in the country.

Locals are unable to match the big foreign players who are always snatching these deals. Locals are not protected by any law to have equitable distribution in a country that is advocating for empowerment and indigenisation.

I appeal to the Zimbabwean government to take charge of its precious mineral resources without delay.

Hon P T Mungofa,
MP Highfield East.

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