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Plot to block mines Bill

THOMAS CHIDAMBA
LEADERS of Zimbabwe’s indigenous mining firms were this week working out a plan to block the second return of the Mines and Minerals Bill (MMAB) to Parliament before authorities have done fresh consultations.

With full backing from influential watch dogs including the Zimbabwe Coalition for Debt and Development (Zimcodd) and the Centre for Natural Resources Governance, the miners cautioned that the 2015 Bill might have had extensive changes since President Emmerson Mnangagwa rejected and sent it back to the Attorney General’s office two years ago.

The MMAB came into the picture following campaigns to amend the Mines and Minerals Act, a 1963 law that had triggered an uproar, with many arguing that it lacked provisions to stem rampant mineral revenue leakages, and was replete with opaque licensing regimes that only propped up big players.

Those pushing for radical changes said that the 60-year-old Act promotes poor tax and royalties flows into State coffers, while perpetuating corruption and human rights violations.

This week, Chinese firms confirmed that there were serious legislative flaws, which they have used as a weapon to displace villagers to set up operations.

In several interviews with businessdigest, frustrated miners said while consultations took place before the President turned it down, the Bill has been shrouded in secrecy since 2018.

They spoke as Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said recently that the Bill would be re-tabled in Parliament before being passed into law.

But miners said they were mounting a petition to both Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando and Parliament to stop the reading.

First to fire warning shots was the Zimbabwe Prospectus Union (ZPU), which warned that without consultations, the country might come up with a bad mining law.

ZPU president Samson Dzingwe said Chitando had no option but to re-engage.

“How can there be a call for a second reading of the Bill in Parliament without making it public as per procedure?” Dzingwe queried.

 “We have been sidelined; we have not been consulted since 2018. How can the Bill go for second reading when all stakeholders were not consulted? By making the Bill secret, private and personal they might want to smuggle some clauses that are against us because they are capable of passing bad legislation like what they did earlier, only for Mnangagwa to reject it. The earlier Bill had obscure…and ambiguous clauses tantamount to red tape and corruption.

“We are aware of individuals who are benefiting from crafting bad legislation who claim that stakeholders have been consulted when in fact a few individuals representing favoured or special groups would have been consulted. Stakeholders are speaking through a petition to stop the Bill from being passed into law,” Dzingwe told businessdigest.

Stakeholders are frustrated because the Mines and Minerals Act has failed to unlock opportunities for new entrants.

Before Chitando was appointed minister in 2018, several of his predecessors undertook to speed up the process, but they were fired or reassigned before finishing their work.

Chitando came close to making amendments two years ago, before Mnangagwa noted the gaps and directed a thorough review.

Last week, Zimcodd said the Bill represented an important step towards revamping the industry.

It said the Bill had factored in important amendments to address many limitations, such as the “use it or lose it policy” which prevents the accumulation of mining claims for speculation.

“The Bill must be re-tabled, which is imperative for tightening fragmented mining fiscal regimes,” said Zimcodd.

Centre for Natural Resources Governance director Farai Maguwu told our sister publication The Standard recently that mining stakeholders were in the dark of fresh changes.

“Initially there were consultations but the Bill was sent back by the President. No one knows what was added or subtracted from the initial Bill. This is the bone of contention. It must not be tabled in Parliament before stakeholder input.

“However, there does not seem to be any political will to get the Bill signed into law. Most likely the current Parliament will be dissolved before the process is finalised and then, come 2023 election, a new mines committee is set up and they start all over again,” he said.

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