environment By JAIROS SAUNYAMA
As age takes its toll on her, Stella Mhosva (63) hopes that one day the ancestors will smile on the poverty-stricken district of Mutoko, which, despite being endowed with vast black granite mineral, remains poor.
For decades, Mhosva has been watching haulage trucks cutting across the villages loaded with blocks of the mineral, also known as Mutoko’s “black diamond”.
“This area is endowed with these granite rocks that are being taken from here. However, I am bitter we have nothing to show for it,” Mhosva said.
“Mutoko could have been the most developed area if the mining companies give back to the communities.
“As villagers, we have been lobbying the responsible authorities to look into the matter and possibly to assist us so that the villagers fully benefit from the mining activities, but nothing is being done.”
The communities have attended several meetings organised by government, civic society organisations and black granite mining companies to come up with ways that would see Mutoko benefiting from the black rock.
However, the case has been politicised such that the villagers’ efforts have been all in vain.
Before the elections, at a rally held in the area, a top Zanu PF official in Mashonaland East province announced that one of the top black granite mining companies had supplied all the fuel and food for the people who had attended the rally. The company also handed over a granite-made table to the main speaker to take to Harare.
In his campaign rally held at Chizanga Primary School in Mutoko in June 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa confirmed that he was briefed on the looting of black granite in the area and promised to act on it.
“On the issue of granite, I know it is mainly found here in Mutoko, the mountains are being destroyed in search of the rocks. I want to promise you that this new dispensation, any [black granite] miner coming here will be working alongside indigenous people. Currently there is a Bill in Parliament, Mines Minerals Amendment Bill, stipulating that the community around the mines should benefit from the activities happening there,” he said.
At least 98% of black granite extracted from Mutoko is exported to European countries such as Germany, Spain and Italy. According to the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, Mutoko district produces 75% of the country’s black granite.
A few months ago, scores of villagers in Mutoko attended a district alternative mining indaba held at Nyamuzuwe business centre and expressed dissatisfaction with the way the area was ignored on how the district remains poor despite the availability of black granite.
The meeting offered a platform for a stakeholder dialogue on the socio-economic opportunities and challenges presented by the extraction of granite in Mutoko.
Speaking during the meeting, Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) communications officer Simiso Mlevu said government needed to honour the Nagoya Protocol, which it ratified a few years ago.
“There is no transparency in the extraction of black granite in Mutoko and this has made accountability to be difficult,” Mlevu said.
“Locals do not even know how much granite leaves their area, they only depend on information brought from Harare. The government of Zimbabwe needs to honour the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation, which they ratified in September 2017.
“There is also need to ensure that good corporate governance is practiced by companies. If possible, there must be a law compelling companies on corporate social responsibility. The royalties also need to be reviewed to ensure that communities, which bear the burden of environmental and cultural violations fully benefit.”
Mutoko Rural District Council is currently charging $1 as unit tax per tonne with the local authority being owed close to $10 million since 1972 as the black granite miners are
not remitting the taxes. The council recently lobbied to up the unit tax to $3, but without success.
A report by Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers’ Association official Mukasiri Sibanda on Natural Resource Governance, said Mutoko Rural District Counci was getting an equivalent of a loaf of bread per each granite block.
“The Rural District Council Act gives a resource-rich local authority the power to collect local taxes from mining activities,” read the report.
“In this regard, Mutoko RDC collects local taxes, $1 per tonne of black granite mined. $1 is equivalent to a loaf of bread. In 2017, Mutoko collected $160 000 from black granite mining activities. Approximately, there are 164 000 people in Mutoko, meaning that mineral income per head amounts to $0,98 per annum.
“There is no transparency concerning production and marketing of black granite in Mutoko. Mutoko RDC suggested that having a weighbridge would be beneficial to independently verify production figures.
“The changing of ministers in Mashonaland East has been hampering progress in the progress of realising profits from the precious mineral in Mutoko.”
Due to the existence of Zanu PF factionalism since 2013, the province has been assigned about six ministers who all brought different views on how to handle the issue of granite mining.
Speaking recently during an all-stakeholders’ meeting held in Marondera after taking over, the new resident minister, Aplonia Munzverengi, said it was high time devolution was implemented and urged local authorities to update their inventories.
“All local authorities should now update their inventories of natural and man-made endowments in readiness for the development of provincial and district development plans that are based on comparative advantages in each district,” Munzverengi said.
“You need to articulate where your potential for development and industrialisation lies so that government as well as potential investors know where to inject capital.”
Sibanda said government was yet to hit top gear on implementation of the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) to address the challenges faced by the community in Mutoko.
“The Mutoko community certainly view domestication of the AMV as a panacea to the resource curse,” said Sibanda.
“The community was deflated to know that the country’s mining regime uses the first In First assessed (Fifa) principle to grant mineral rights, stifling space for competitive bidding. To acquire mineral rights based on Fifa principle, an investor pays $200 for a prospecting licence, $300 to get a mining title and $100 annually to renew the mining
title. An ordinary block of black granite mining covers 25 hectares.
“To make the Mutoko community relate better to the costs of acquiring black granite mining claims, the costs were converted to livestock — goats and cattle. It costs six goats to get a prospecting licence, one cow to get a mining title and three goats to renew the mining title. Clearly, Mutoko community can afford to own black granite mining titles in their area.”
Realising that Africa should not continue to squander the opportunity to hinge development on her vast mineral wealth, the Union Heads of State and Government adopted the AMV in 2009. The AMV envisages transparency, equity and the optimal development of mineral resources to underpin broad-based sustainable growth and socio-economic development in Africa.
For Mhosva and her generation, the sun has already set for them before a developed Mutoko can be a reality. The existence of the “black diamond” is just on paper — on the ground the district remains poor with nothing to show for it.