Obviously, if Zimbabwe had a substantive and a legitimate authority to talk about, it would be the government, with all the gains and benefits accruing to the State — the State which is the authority that looks after its people, the majority of who are mostly the local communities, the marginalised and the down-trodden.
Exiled businessman Mutumwa Mawere recently raised a critical observation on resource ownership and control: “The propensity to convert state actors into lords and for citizens to be reduced to vassals must be exposed and resisted”. This statement evokes the need to think that the state actors are the politicians turning the heat on each other at the expense of the poor, who are also in the race to exploit these natural resources and yet are being harassed or sidelined in their efforts.
The development of natural resources must be at par with equal human development. Colonialism’s “civilising” burden of partial development of natural resources for commercial exploitation should not resurface in the form of biased and misconstrued indigenisation, sovereignty and black empowerment. The relationship of the majority and State actors should naturally bring transformation based on equity, responsibility, a strong restraint to avarice and gross selfishness that the politicians are unashamedly exposing.
The dominant and self-serving interests of politicians in natural resource exploitation, for instance, gold, diamonds, black granite, platinum, chrome, lithium or even fauna and flora, are ignoring the needs of the majority whose requirements are partially being satisfied through distorted, unclear or non-existent open market systems.
Such neglect of the majority’s key sources of survival has been the main reason why the so-called land reform and the indigenisation choruses have posed a serious challenge to sustainable natural resource conservation and management to the extent of even posing a threat to simple and fair daily survival.
Indeed, it is true that most of the current crop of local politicians do not understand modern economics and its concepts of development such as resource use, ownership and control. These ideas have spanned a large portion of the history of humankind and nature. But how these simple and clear principles continue to elude them boggles the mind.
Development experts have asserted that fair principles of sustenance have provided human societies the material basis of survival over many centuries by deriving livelihoods directly from nature through collective-provisioning mechanisms. Limits in resource-exploitation have been respected and have guided the limits of human consumption.
The majority in Zimbabwe continue to derive their sustenance within the deliberately squeezed survival economy which remains invisible to open and fair market systems while the self-anointed and greedy lords continue to exploit natural resources with impunity. And, in any case, the rule of law is highly questionable, with the Recostruction Act and the Prevention of Corruption Act having been used grossly unfairly on Mawere when the former government wrested his asbestos mines. With such glaring cases of unfairness, to what extent are the generality of Zimbabweans safe in freely exploiting, owning and controlling natural resources?
Many times when people get into positions of power, they easily despise the poor and they persecute the meek. Resources should just simply be exploited and shared equally among the people without looking at the race, colour or tribe of a person.
By Tonderayi Matonho