GROWING controversy and confusion over the community share ownership trusts has hit the country, leaving Zimbabweans yearning for clarity on the exact amount pledged by mining companies and the total amount paid to date after information emerged over the past weeks that President Robert Mugabe might have been duped into receiving “fake cheques” during the launches.
Mugabe travelled across the country from 2011, launching community share ownership trusts to spearhead development and empower rural communities by asking companies to cede 10% stake in all businesses that exploit natural resources to the local communities.
Cheques totalling US$2 billion were handed over to Mugabe during the launch of 59 share ownership schemes in the 10 provinces. According to the Zanu PF 2013 manifesto, a total of US$23,5 million had been paid out to the trusts by six companies by July 2013.
However, within the past month, Indigenisation minister Francis Nhema and his predecessor Saviour Kasukuwere have clashed over the share ownership schemes after the portfolio committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment summoned Nhema and diamond mining companies in Marange to clarify the issue of payment.
The diamond mining firms in Marange, among them Anjin Investment, Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Company and Jinan, have allegedly not honoured their pledges made to the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust, with some saying they never pledged to pay US$10 million apiece as stated by Kasukuwere.
In a shocking revelation, Nhema told the legislators that the letters that allegedly emanated from his office to Marange mining companies on their contributions to the community share ownership trust did not exist.
This did not go down well with Kasukuwere, who has insisted that all deals were done above board and the companies should just pay the US$10 million each they pledged, a figure which the mining companies strongly dispute.
They insist they pledged to pay only US$1,5 million each.
Diamond firms also said they were in direct contact with the minister of State for Manicaland Province Christopher Mushowe, who provided his bank account, effectively sidestepping the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust.
Anjin Investment board member Munyaradzi Machacha said they had always worked with Mushowe.
“The trust has not approached us. Mushowe is the one we have been talking to. He was the contact person.
“He gave us the bank account. We have not had any meeting with Marange-Zimunya Community Trust,” Machacha reported to parliament.
“All the correspondence we have had is through the Minister of State for Manicaland because he claims he has a working relationship with the Marange-Zimunya Community Trust. We have not had any business meeting with the trust,” said Machacha.
These revelations have raised questions on the total amount contributed to date and how the funds have benefitted the communities.
The schemes have come under serious scrutiny amid allegations of rampant fund abuse, politicking and confusion leading to lack of tangible development in areas that should have benefited.
The Zimbabwe Independent visited Tongogara Community Share Ownership Trust in Shurugwi, one of the few that have benefited the surrounding communities.
The reason for the success, Chief Lameck Banga says, is because “the trust did not allow any politics to play in the running of its affairs.”
Tongogara Community Share Ownership Trust has built a school, a mortuary, and bought caterpillars which are rehabilitating roads in rural Shurugwi.
“Since former Indigenisation minister Kasukuwere read the riot act to the chiefs in the Tongogara community after they had demanded US$5 000 as allowances, things changed and development took off because we all realised this was meant for the community,” said Chief Banga in an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent last Saturday.
Chief Banga recently told the portfolio committee that political interference hindered the operations of the community share ownership trusts.
“On certain hot issues of debate, people who are not trustees tend to dictate and even claim that they have got instruction from higher authority, which is either the ministry, or some political figures within the ministry,” said Chief Banga.
Director of Research and Advocacy in the Solidarity Peace Trust, Brian Raftopoulos said although the indigenisation initiative remains noble, Zanu PF has used the controversial programme to gain popularity.
“By implementing this controversial programme, Zanu PF managed to claw back some space which it lost to the MDCs in the 2008 disputed elections and increase its support base,” Raftopoulos said.
“It is unfortunate that this indigenisation has exposed the state itself as being owned by a particular party and that Zanu PF used this process to spearhead its campaigns without assessing how communities will benefit,” he said.
However, in an interview on Monday, Kasukuwere said claims that the process was not done well and documents were missing is a non-event because the evidence on the ground shows that companies like Unki are transforming their communities.
“Where documents were required, we signed them and in some instances we had to agree with companies such as Zimplats that are now fulfilling their pledges,” Kasukuwere said.
“Companies must just honour their pledges like what Zimplats has just done. This is clear testimony that the community share ownership schemes are rolling out on the ground. We may have made mistakes in how we approached these companies, but evidence is there on the ground which shows communities are benefiting.”
But with controversy over the existence of the documents Kasukuwere refers to, questions remain on the exact nature of agreement as Zimpalts remains the exception rather than the rule when it comes to community share ownership trusts.