Mining is the linchpin of the Zimbabwean economy. It is positioned there through the National Vision 2030. Discipline, consistency and alignment are critical as we are poising ourselves for growth as a country.
One area that Zimbabwe needs to continue tackling and mastering is the discipline in policy consistency and in maintaining scaled-up energy for legal, policy and practice alignment to the national vision.
The main glue to the achievement of those aspects is the availability of a definable national ideology. Critically a definable national ideology cannot be overemphasized as it casts the line to be towed, of-course within the confines of national statutes, conditions and feasibilities. The world is a hotchpotch of ideas (both new and old) and countries are not spared from the confusion associated with the different perspectives, their attractiveness mainly due to availability of funding and acceptability into the “league of smarter nations”, yet the country must choose that which works most for itself before such adaptations, and for its political, economic, social, technological and environmental sustainability and posterity agendas. This article in that line of thinking raises debate on why national legal and policy frameworks are sometimes inconsistent, lacking timely alignment particularly with a special focus on specific mining areas and, lacking the discipline to keep the policies and practices legally and administratively stable. Focus is given to riverbed mining as an example.
In Zimbabwe, riverbed mining was recently banned by the government. Riverbed mining spans from alluvial and eluvial, to diluvial mining. Riverbed mining has existed in the country for many years and flip floppingly, it has been legalized, illegalized and both legalized and illegalized. The current scenario is the latter.
Existing legal and policy positions allow riverbed mining only in Save and Angwa Rivers. Without adequate data to substantiate the claim by environmentalists that only Save and Angwa Rivers are mature enough to sustain riverbed mining, the main idea is whether the country should accept every new idea that comes without giving adequate thought to the broader national impact of the move to national sustainability. Another view is whether the oscillations backwards and forwards will not continue into the near future, creating a negative atmosphere of inconsistency, indiscipline and endless legal and policy recalibrations.
Indeed, riverbed mining has got many merits and demerits to environmentalists and other livelihoods sustainability options but the argument superior to those two is whether those considerations will significantly feed into the national vision 2030. Zimbabwe has boasted of gold deposits and sometimes these deposits are in our rivers which will finally deposit the minerals into the oceans. Current gold production levels have been going down, partly due to increased restricted mining areas. Particularly, responsible mining is critical to balance between mineral production, mitigation of adverse impact on the environment and how the mining operations can help towards achieving the national vision 2030.
What is even more important is the national strategy and methodology adopted towards the vision. Definitely in that regard, in the short to medium terms, the country needs money to transform and position itself on the best pedestal for growth through industrialization which all needs funding. The country has opened itself for business investment from about and far and has to also lead in its quest to achieve its vision by adequate facilitation that requires measured and well-thought-out strategies, cooperation and unity of purpose.
Whereas riverbed mining is becoming more preferable by many local and foreign investors due to the simplicity of alluvial over reef mining methods involved, it is important to strengthen monitoring of operations while avoiding moving forwards and backwards without adequate justification. The main motivations are two-fold. Firstly, the gold that is yielded, and secondly, the de-siltation that occurs leaving the river able to hold huge volumes of water for livestock, human use and agricultural activities all along the stretch of the river. The river’s ecosystem will once again grow back. Currently, large swathes of rivers are dry during the dry season and hence being unable to sustain the communities that live along the river or the associatory ecosystem. Once desilted, the river will be able to store accessible water. Green-belts will possibly be created, from which serious agricultural activities can be done.
River sand mining is a big issue in many countries including India and sand abstraction is now believed to be at a faster scale when compared to the natural development process of sand particles in the rivers. Given the continued high demand for sand in the construction industry, a framework has to be developed for sustainable abstraction than to simply ban sand abstraction completely, especially in a developing country. The same applies to the Zimbabwean context with regards to the many forms of mining. The country needs to be led by its ideology and vision, and all influences that come along should not detract the country from its main objectives. The existence of advocacy is critical in all societies and these advocates should also understand and support the national thrust and help craft frameworks that can be implemented in phases, and incorporating the advocates’ ideas which are normally international, without fully throwing off the gauntlet.
In ending, advocates who normally overly get to be dogmatic about ideas may not be as constructive, in the current Zimbabwe that requires more of a middle-of-the-road approach to its development. Investors in their various classes are coming-up in different forms and with different areas of interest, but certain areas like riverbed mining can be made acceptable with particular conditions for example where small-scale miners are concerned. The fact that Angwa and Save Rivers have been left for riverbed mining is also a good case study for the broader riverbed mining sustainability in the country and that should not just be a matter of stopping its existence. It only confuses when this kind of mining is again opened within a short space of time from the last ban as that reflects poor discipline, consistency and alignment of the national policy and legal frameworks to the national vision and ideology.
On the other hand, Angwa and Save rivers are not as prolific when it comes to riverbed gold mining. The mining sector to a larger extent demands high capital investment and may involve long-term investment planning hence the need to ensure the maintenance of policy, legislative and administrative discipline, consistency and alignment in our unwavering move towards attracting national investment and achievement of vision 2030. Lack of discipline, consistency and alignment which are keys to national development, can keep the country engulfed in corruption, over-bureaucratization that breeds corruption, as well as subsequent nepotistic over meritocratic tendencies. Nepotistic approaches can lead to targeted flexing of particular policies and laws; a practice that the government has moved away from and strongly condemns.
[Edmond Mkaratigwa (Ph.D. Candidate of Energy Innovation and Sustainability; holder of an MBA in Energy and Sustainability and Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development. The article is personal and independent from positions associated with the author)].