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Property rights: Govt should act

Last week’s revelation that a gold mine had been grabbed mafia-style by chaotic elements linked to Zanu PF is yet another reminder that in Zimbabwe the authorities pay lip service to the rule of law while loudly proclaiming to the whole world that the country “is open for business”.

Zimind Comment

The illegal take-over of Gaika Mine in Kwekwe has not gone unnoticed to foreign investors who are now asking tough questions about the government’s sincerity in safeguarding property rights.

It is scandalous that, in a country desperate for investment-led development, it had to take the intervention of High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi to call the lawbreakers to order. During the day, the political leaders are proclaiming that “Zimbabwe is open for business”, but at night their marauding gangs are set loose. It is untenable.

Experience here in Zimbabwe and in other parts of the world has taught us that a weak and corrupt state creates opportunities for asset strippers to ride roughshod over the legal and constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.

For private enterprise to thrive in any given country, certain enabling conditions must obtain. These are: the rule of law and respect for property rights; an independent judiciary and competent courts; a government that respects contract law and property rights. Remove any of these vital pillars and a civilised society ceases to exist.
As first reported by the Zimbabwe Independent last week, the judge ordered the Ministry of Mines to stop granting mining rights to a Zanu PF legislator for Mbizo Vongaishe Mupereri after he violently attempted to seize the gold mining company from its owner.

Justice Mathonsi also ordered the police to conduct investigations at Gaika Mine, which is at the centre of the dispute. This came after Carel Hendrick Meyer, the manager at the mine, approached the courts seeking an interdict on the illegal activities that patently violated property rights.

The lawlessness claimed the life of an innocent passer-by. Meyer, in his affidavit, averred that during the late afternoon of March 2, 2018, a violent altercation broke out between unlawful occupiers of the Gaika pit. The result of this violence, he said, resulted in a number of people being hospitalised.

Meyer, through his lawyers, said he had no recourse at law as presently the law enforcement agency, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, had refused to protect him. This case brings to the spotlight the country’s commitment to the rule of law and property rights. The violent seizure of mines is also understood to have the blessings of politicians in the Midlands province. The High Court then ordered the occupiers of the mine to immediately vacate.

There are several lessons to be learnt from this sad episode. The first one is obviously that lawlessness is a bad advertisement for investment promotion. The second one is that, where political leaders — who should know better — are the chief instigators of criminal activity, the image of the nation is tarnished beyond repair. The third lesson is that the world will gauge the Zimbabwean government’s seriousness in creating a conducive climate for investment on account of its actions on the ground and not just hollow rhetoric.

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