Zimbabwe: the diamonds are ours!

Zimbabwe: the diamonds are ours!
Published: 17 October 2013 (1287 Views)
I think we can create a better future other than the one we all fear.

According to Carlos Lopes, writing in Allfrica.com: "The African Mining Vision jointly developed by the African Union, African Development Bank and other United Nations agencies and adopted by the African Union Heads of State in 2009 advocates for 'transparent, equitable and optimal exploitation of mineral resources to underpin broad-based sustainable growth and socio-economic development'.

"At the core of the African Mining Vision is the realisation that Africa's mineral resources can be better utilised to address the continents social and economic needs; the focus on environmental and social sustainability, the advantages of regional and international integration with attendant hard and soft infrastructure challenges, the emphasis of building of backward, forward and sideward linkages from the core mining sector and equitable principles of fairness in benefit sharing and use of resource revenues," he writes.

Of course, the African Union in particular has lost all respect from progressive Zimbabweans given our latest experience with them. It is, therefore, quite thorny to take them seriously on anything they say.

That given, the above vision is rather compelling and if I were President of Zimbabwe today, I would aggressively pursue it in order to leave a respectable legacy.

"More than 500 years after commercial exploitation of Africa's resources, Africa continues to host many of the large and unexploited deposits of minerals globally. Africa accounts for three-quarters of the world's platinum supply, and half of its diamonds and chromium. It has up to one-fifth of gold and uranium supplies and it is increasingly home to oil and gas production with over 30 countries now in this category."

Lopes further estimates that Africa's share of windfall earnings has been minuscule, compared to what mining companies have realised. Average net profits for the top 40 global mining companies grew by 156% in 2010 whereas the take for governments grew by only 60%, most of which was accounted for by Australia and Canada.

In our case, the revenues generated by our diamonds continue to be a mystery and I expect more thrills will be out soon. Zimbabwe's diamond mining saga continues to unravel like a thriller novel; no doubt the plot will thicken sooner rather than later. Enter the Belgians, who are obviously in it for themselves, how shameful and how easily we get duped!

We are on the right track, therefore, to insist on the indigenisation of this sector in Zimbabwe so that Zimbabweans may benefit as foreseen by the African Mining Vision.

We are correct in insisting that communities benefit from mining activities around their areas. However, our proposed methodology of community share ownership schemes is, for me, uninformed and only beneficial to partisan chiefs. What a disappointment.

We are also on the right track to realise that we can get more for our resources if we adopt better and more intelligent valuation methods so that we do not sell ourselves short. The Zimplats and Essar deals exposed our credulity and how our politicians continue to bungle and meddle in issues that they are not really competent on. Nothing new here!

We, however, need to urgently deal with the issue of equitable principles of fairness in benefit sharing and use of resource revenues.

I have recently learnt that our Mining Act gives the Head of State the full responsibility to be the custodian of our natural resources. As long as we have a President in office who respects that he or she is a "custodian" and not the "owner", our future will be bright as a country. Therein lies the challenge.

If I were President, I would ensure that, firstly, as a country, we aggressively seek a valuation of all the minerals that exist underneath Zimbabwe. After all, how can you be a custodian of something you don't know?

Secondly, I would ensure that every living adult and child in Zimbabwe is endowed with a stake in the mineral wealth of the country through the Sovereign Wealth Fund; after all, the people come first. This would create tremendous wealth and the economic revival we sorely need.

For me, this is not so difficult to achieve. Of course, our predator elite would try and put all the spanners in the works as we shall see unfolding. There is just no integrity, no goodwill and no conscience.

Zimbabwe's resources belong to Zimbabweans and not to Zanu PF or any political formation for that matter. We, therefore, have the responsibility to have a say in who gets what when and how. After all, the diamonds are ours!

I am also quite livid at how even our erstwhile businessmen in the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries have now joined the call for the removal of sanctions. For goodness sake, Ian Smith grew Zimbabwe's industrial base considerably during UDI with an import substitution strategy during sanctions. Why can't we adopt the same attitude now?

"The problems we face (in Zimbabwe) can never be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." (Albert Einstein).

They can never be solved by those who created them in the first place unless they choose to think anew!

Vince Musewe is an economist based in Harare. You can contact him on vtmusewe@gmail.com

- Vince Musewe

Tags: Diamonds,

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