This is the fifth in a serialised document containing submissions made by chiefs from Matabeleland and Midlands provinces to President Emmerson Mnangagwa on the occasion of his meeting with them at the State House in Bulawayo on June 28, 2019.
3.1 Jobs, promotion for local communities
In our areas there are vast investment opportunities. There is gold, coal, diamond, methane gas, timber, tourism and many other resources. What is needed is to get companies to partner with locals to exploit this wealth. Sadly, sustained economic development has hardly taken place in our provinces.
As a result, according to government statistics, Matabeleland North is now the poorest province in the country. Following closely is Matabeleland South. Yet this was not always the case. What happened? This is despite the fact that this province boasts of the Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls, among many foreign currency-generating tourist places.
Virtually all jobs, including of security guards, guides, cleaners and cooks, that are created, tend to go to people coming from the eastern regions of the country. You walk into hotels, resorts and tour companies and you will not find locals being employed here. Even government bus employees are from the eastern regions. Locals who are protecting game and other tourist attractions are discriminated against in employment and promotion opportunities.
Needless to say, it is wrong for government and private companies to bring with them all skilled and unskilled workers from other provinces when we have an abundant supply of these. Poverty, inequalities and unemployment cannot be eradicated if employers do no employ locals and when companies do not plough back into the communities that are hosting them.
3.2 Pay workers fair, meaningful salaries
Your Excellency, the dignity of work is being seriously undermined in the country. Most workers across industry are being paid insulting salaries that do not meet the basic needs of households. We call upon government to intervene in the best interests of the thousands of workers.
3.3 Arrest the rising cost of living
Your Excellency, the ever-rising prices of basic commodities is causing serious pain in our communities and needs urgent attention. In fact, the cost of living is now totally unbearable, as the cost of all goods and services has skyrocketed beyond the means of our rural and urban communities.
The RTGS dollar is increasingly becoming useless, creating uncertainty among both investors and consumers. What makes the situation worse is that the rising cost of living comes at a time when levels of unemployment and lack of income are very high. This means very few people can afford even the most minimum standard of living.
The stability of the country going forward will depend very much on government’s ability to deal with people’s lack of confidence in the RTGS dollar and the skyrocketing prices of goods and services.
3.4 Address abuses of EPOs
Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPOs) need to be revisited and reviewed to remove abuse as they have been used to take vast tracks of land from locals and deny them opportunities to participate in the mining sector.
Considering that the region is rich in minerals, this should have been the launching ground for wealth and employment creation for locals, but there are no benefits for the region. Instead EPOs have shut locals out of the economic cake.
3.5 Business licences and permits
The over-centralisation of licencing of key business opportunities in Harare makes life extremely difficult for locals who want to venture into business.
As a result of this arrangement, locals have to watch other people exploiting local resources that they should themselves have been benefiting from. To make matters worse, these businesses bring with them truckloads of employees from elsewhere. In Binga, for example, locals are marginalised from the lucrative fishing industry. Permits are either priced way out of what locals can afford or they tend to be issued in a way that can only exclude locals.
We therefore call upon government to:
ensure locals in Binga, Hwange, Victoria Falls and other places are given top priority in giving business licences and permits for the exploitation of natural resources;
ensure that fishing and other permits and other business licences are affordable and issued by the district in which licences are found; and
ensure that a majority quota of natural resources-related businesses are reserved for locals.
Your Excellency, corruption is eating our country alive and it stands in the way of economic recovery and a prosperous future.
No place, and certainly no sector, has been left untouched by this cancerous crime. There is corruption in virtually everything, from issuing of driver’s licences, to issuing of birth certificates and passports, to company registrations, to investment licences, to issuing of mining and businesses licences, to land reform, to road traffic fines, to school examinations, to award of degrees and diplomas, to accessing foreign currency, to externalisation of foreign currency, to issuing of import and export licences, to everything else.
While there may be other causes of the economic collapse of the country over the past two decades, corruption has played and continues to play its fair share. Unless we take decisive measures against both public and private sector corruption, no amount of external investment will change the fortunes of the country. Corruption won’t disappear unless and until we have the willingness and the necessary capacities to eradicate it without fear or favour.
Despite arrests now and then, we are not seeing any successful prosecutions and convictions. Are we arresting innocent people or is it corruption within the system or is it lack of appropriate capacities in the anti-corruption institutions?
What has compounded the situation is that corruption is alleged to permeate our law enforcement and prosecution agencies and the courts. In any society the police, prosecutors and courts form the last line of defence against graft and other vices. Once this defence collapses, the country ceases to exist as a habitable place for the law abiding; it becomes a banana republic where the most corrupt thrive and lawlessness abounds.
As a result of the corruption, the country is ranked among the most corrupt nations on earth. No investor can put money in such an environment. We just have to clean our acts or we will sink.
We call upon government to:
strengthen the institutional and budgetary capacities of anti-corruption institutions;
appoint truly independent persons to lead anti-graft bodies;
set up an independent public protector office modelled on the South African one;
set up a judicial commission to clean up allegations of corruption in various state agencies;
set up a standalone police anti-corruption unit freshly recruited from experts in financial and economic crimes and from the legal and accounting professions and other fields of learning;
remove from office all government officials with a cloud of corruption hanging over them; and
set up specialised anti-corruption courts.
We also call upon government to ensure that public funds and property are treated in terms of 308 of the constitution. Section 308(2) states that it “is the duty of every person who is responsible for expenditure of public funds and ensure that they are spent only on legally authorised purposes and in legally authorised amounts”.
In regards public property Section 308(3) provides that it “is the duty of every person in custody or control of public property to safeguard the property and ensure that it is not lost, destroyed, damaged, misapplied or misused”.
4. Food security, land & resettlement
Your Excellency, land is a key pillar of economic and social development. Therefore its allocation and use should help strengthen social and economic justice and stability and improve food security.
Resettlement has to follow laid down procedures and respect local cultures and traditions. Furthermore, following a severe drought this past season, urgent relief aid for both livestock and people is required to assure the food and nutritional security of households and to protect livestock. Water should be a key component of this.
4.1 Food and nutritional security support
The drought has seen a sharp increase of food insecure households. Many children are going to school without food. Child hunger and malnutrition are on the rise. Access to clean water and safe sanitation is on the decline.
As a result a lot of households need assistance to improve food and nutritional security and access to clean and irrigation water. We therefore call upon your government, Your Excellency, to quickly move in with the necessary interventions.
Your Excellency, millions of people under our chieftainships remain landless since their eviction from fertile agricultural land by the colonial settlers. The land reform exercise has not reached these people, yet we are told that their ancestral lands from which they were evicted has been taken by others. This anomaly needs to be rectified.
For example, under Chief Jahana in Insiza district there are people who have come from under Chief Mapanzure in Zvishavane who have crossed over and taken over land in Insiza district and are refusing to vacate the land even after many attempts by the local government authority. This behaviour may trigger social conflicts that might result in serious national instability.
We therefore ask you, Your Excellency, to urgently intervene and ensure that those illegally occupying this land are evicted without delay.
Land reform and occupation regularisation should follow the following principles:
No person should ever be allowed to occupy any piece of land in disregard of the law and principles of orderly settlement. People who have resettled themselves and are therefore unlawfully occupying the land should be evicted otherwise we set a wrong precedent of people just settling themselves in complete disregard of authorities. Even in our local communities, we have instances where some people are taking over pastures and destroying wetlands, forests and local food security in the name of land reform. This must be rejected. Order must prevail.
Land reform should prioritise local people and be done through local civic and traditional leaders instead of what we see where locals remain landless, while people from other regions of the country take land from where the locals were evicted by colonial settlers.
No local person should be evicted to make way for people coming from other areas. Land redistribution is supposed to be a redress of colonial dispossession and therefore it makes no sense at all to find people who are in lawful occupation of the land being evicted from their ancestral land in which they were recently resettled after they had been evicted by colonial settlers.
4.3 Evictions to make way for EPOs
We are also seriously concerned about land evictions that have left many people not only landless but homeless as well to make way for EPOs.
As has already have been alluded to above, we continue to see people being evicted to make way for EPO companies that end up doing nothing on the land but holding it for speculative purposes. The abuse of EPOs should be thoroughly investigated and curtailed.
While we appreciate the need to explore and exploit our minerals, this should not be done in a way that renders people landless or unjustly takes away land from them to make way for somebody to make money.
l To be continued next week.