Interview: Tongai Muzenda MMCZ General Manager

Tongai Muzenda

Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) General Manager Mr Tongai Mzenda interview.

Can you please tell us about yourself and as the person at the helm of the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) what does your position entail?

My name is Tongai Matthew Muzenda, the General Manager of the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ).  I joined MMCZ in February 2019. I am a holder of a Masters of Business Leadership degree from the University of South Africa and BSc Honours in Economics from the University of Zimbabwe. Having over 30 years of experience l can say I am a seasoned business and marketing leader who has gained knowledge across several sectors including Mining, Agriculture and Public Sector Services. I have worked for Anglo American Corporation Services Limited in different managerial capacities as well as Marketing and Commercial Director and Chief Executive Officer of Zimbabwe Alloys Limited, a company involved in the production of low & high carbon ferrochrome and ferrosilicon chrome.  I was also a Member of Parliament for Gutu West, Masvingo for five years and served as a Deputy Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare for two years. I have had various directorships in Government entities and private organisations.

What does your position entail

As MMCZ our operations are guided by the MMCZ Act Chapter 24:04 and the roles that are attached to my position are clearly outlined in the MMCZ board charter. These roles include but are not limited to; ensuring that the Corporation is run efficiently and effectively in accordance with the functions of the MMCZ as enunciated in the MMCZ Act, chapter 21:04 and the strategic decision of the board, ensuring that performance objectives, goals, and targets are met.

Furthermore, I am responsible for establishing effective management structures as well as ensuring that there are effective internal operations and implementing governance measures.

Why should a foreign investor invest in Zimbabwe?

The most common response is that Zimbabwe has vast mineral resources, making it a remarkable resource centre that is appealing to investors. However, as a nation, we are moving away from being known as a resource centre by encouraging investors to come in and set up value-added plants in Zimbabwe, ensuring that the nation receives more value from its exports rather than simply being known as a resource centre.

Aside from direct mining investment, there is a significant opportunity to provide heavy underground mining machinery and other supplies, as well as transportation infrastructure and materials, including railways. The country is also building related and supporting industry infrastructure, such as roads and weighbridges. The government’s renewed interest in increasing domestic production of value-added mineral products will necessitate greater capital investments in the mining sector than the current business model, which is based on exporting unprocessed or semi-processed natural resources.

Another factor that favours investors is political stability, and this ensures that their investments are not affected by civil wars or other forms of violence. Zimbabwe is also rich in human capital and is an open economy.

What does Zimbabwe have to offer better than any other African country?

Zimbabwe has among the greatest deposits for PGMs, gold and base metals – the Great dyke, second only to South Africa’s Bushveld complex and very privileged that its resources are still virgin, only slightly exploited; great Li and rare earth elements – bearing pegmatite deposits, which explains the current rush on lithium, hosts some of the rare carbonatite ring complex deposits for vermiculite for which we are one of the few suppliers from the African continent outside South Africa. Zimbabwe has a diversified mineral resource base spanning across all mineral groups – energy minerals ( coal, gas, Uranium and Thorium), metallic nonferrous minerals (base metals – copper (cu), lead (Pb), tin (Sn), nickel (Ni), aluminium (Al), zinc (Zn), etc), metallic ferrous minerals (Iron ores, chrome ores, manganese, nickel ores, cobalt ores, steel, etc), metallic precious metals (PGMs – platinum (Pt), iridium (Ir), palladium (Pd), rhodium (Rh), ruthenium (Ru); gold (Au), silver (Ag)), nonmetallic minerals (dimension stones – granite and slates; industrial minerals – graphite mica, limestone, dolomite, silica (quartz), kyanite, etc), and gemstones (various coloured gemstones (emerald, aquamarine, other beryls, garnets, tourmalines, chrysoberyls, amethyst, etc and diamond). The country is not fully explored but has a fairly good road and communication network to access the whole country thus offering tremendous opportunities for exploration and new mineral discoveries. In addition, Zimbabwe has the human capital, be it in exploration or value addition or logistics and is centrally positioned in Southern Africa to be a centre of mineral exchanges.

What activities has the MMCZ carried out to market the country’s diverse geological mineral resources to potential investors inside and outside the country under your motto “Revealing Zimbabwe’s Mineral Wealth & Heritage”?

MMCZ participates in both local and international exhibitions to search for lucrative markets and market the vast minerals produced in Zimbabwe except silver and gold.

What are your main marketing platforms and to what extent have you taken advantage of digital technology to enhance your marketing efforts?

MMCZ is a brand on its own, known locally and internationally as the sole exporting authority for all minerals except gold and silver. We receive a number of enquiries from international customers who want to buy minerals and those who want to invest in the mining industry, and from locals who seek partners from abroad. We are also actively pursuing digital marketing through the following platforms: online diamond tenders platforms, e-commerce in process, website and social media.

We have the deadline approaching (end of the year) for the achievement of the USD12 billion Mining Industry target. What are you doing, as a key entity in the supply chain, to ensure this target is achieved?

To ensure that the vast minerals produced in Zimbabwe are sold at competitive prices MMCZ benchmarks prices against lucrative international markets.  Through the bans on exporting unbeneficiated mineral ores, the nation continues to push increased sales of value-added minerals like granite, chrome, lithium and gemstones. At the same time, the Corporation has embarked on a market development exercise to prepare markets for the beneficiated minerals.

To promote the value addition of gemstones, the Corporation together with relevant authorities is setting up a gemstone lapidary. The Lapidary will be offering cutting and polishing facilities and training services on cutting and polishing, gemstone grading and evaluation.

To ensure that all the gemstones exported from the country are accounted for the Corporation appointed subagents. The appointment of sub-agents is expected to bring about higher volumes of gemstones and information on gemstone occurrences in Zimbabwe.  The Corporation confirmed the appointment of eight (8) coloured gemstone sub-agents. The Corporation is still taking applications from individuals and companies who are interested in becoming gemstone sub-agents.

Through the trainings we conduct around Zimbabwe annually, the Corporation continuously encourages small-scale miners to formalize as a way of doing away with leakages.

What are the mineral marketing opportunities that are found in Zimbabwe and what is the position of MMCZ in attracting new markets for our minerals?

The country has a large mineral resource base in demand across the globe, these minerals can be legally extracted by small, medium and large-scale miners. Some of these minerals can be sold to local industries to produce value-added products.

Other numerous mineral marketing opportunities in Zimbabwe include the fact that miners can sell their products to their own customers, after approval by the Corporation. The Corporation through its brand name attracts a number of customers, who are referred to suppliers of the minerals. The Corporation actively participates in shows, fairs and exhibitions to market Zimbabwe’s minerals to international and local customers. We participate in Mine Entra and ZITF, platforms that expose our services to both local and international customers; Mine Indaba in RSA where we meet with international clients and a number of other Fairs and Exhibitions in Dubai and Asia. Polished gemstones, be they diamond or coloured gemstones can be bought by any Zimbabwean for their use or further selling to those niche markets that we may not be aware of. This presents an opportunity for every Zimbabwean as a marketer. Critical is to ensure that as they sell the stones outside Zimbabwe, they do so through the Corporation.

Which minerals currently you would say need more buyers from across the world due to a shortage of Markets in Zimbabwe?

We need more buyers for all minerals that we sell locally or export. Market diversification is always good. When one segment of the market is not doing well, maybe the other could be doing fine. That ensures we get maximum value for our minerals as our mission states.

How much did the country fetch from mineral exports other than gold and silver in 2022?

As of December 2022 the cumulative total of sales was at US$3.176 billion.

Lithium has been popular worldwide due to the green revolution, how much raw lithium was exported from Zimbabwe in 2022?

There is a misconception on the market when we talk of the market for lithium. Lithium is a very light metal, number 3 on the periodic table, and very unstable and reactive in air, so are a number of its compounds such as lithium carbonate – the intermediary product to battery manufacturing. More stable are its minerals – spodumene, pollucite, lepidolite, amblygonite, etc. We export these as mineral concentrates, i.e concentration of each of these lithium minerals is achieved by crushing the ores (rocks containing any of these lithium minerals in quantities that make them economic to extract) to liberate these minerals and picking them to form concentrates through a number of extractive metallurgical processes. We, thus, export lithium mineral concentrates – spodumene, pollucite, amblygonite, lepidolite, etc. Cumulative to date, a total of 86,759.25 mt of these mineral concentrates valued at US$70.595 million were sold in the year 2022 compared to 33,314.18 mt valued at USD 11.13 million sold in 2021.

In the gemstone sector, what opportunities are there for investors in terms of buying and exporting all gemstones including diamonds?

You may be aware that we introduced an SI 256 of 2019, called the Gemstones Subagents Regulations. This was to ensure the inclusivity of all miners and those not able to mine but have a passion for buying and selling coloured gemstones in the value chain of these minerals to create value with what they know best. Miners would mine while subagents would offer alternative markets to miners, sidelining illegal traders all to the benefit of our miners through competitive pricing by the Corporation and Subagents. This created a business opportunity for those with a passion for buying and selling gemstones. We hope to create new gemstone trading businesses and maximize prices achieved by small-scale miners on their production. So investors can actually finance the Gemstones Subagents, creating a cycle of revenue creation in the value chain to the benefit of the citizens and the nation at large. Investors can also come in to set up value-adding and cutting and polishing factories for gemstones in Zimbabwe since the main objective for the mining sector is to push for value addition before our mineral resources are exported in a raw state.

Diamonds are classified as strategic minerals. As such, there is a government policy on who mines, export or value add this mineral. Miners are any of the four – ZCDC, Anjin Investments (Pvt) Ltd – a joint venture between Zimbabwe and China, Murowa and Alrosa Zimbabwe (a joint venture between Zimbabwe and Russia). Cutting and polishing are however open to any investor local or international. SI 157 of 2010 and SI 79 of 2014 regulate the sales and cutting and polishing of diamonds, while the Finance Act gave price discount incentives to local diamond cutting and polishing entities. All being done to attract more investors.

The government recently banned the export of raw minerals, as the organization which markets minerals in Zimbabwe how are you going to ensure that mines that were exporting raw minerals find a market within the country?

We are encouraging investors to come and invest –foreign direct investment such as green field `

What are other measures that you’re currently undertaking to ensure value addition and beneficiation of the country’s minerals?

We are offering advisory services to producers in terms of markets and prices for beneficiated and value-added products, government through the MMMD has put in place restrictive measures on raw mineral exports through legal instruments while at the same encouraging investors to come and invest in beneficiation and value-addition. This has been done for granite, chrome, diamonds, and lithium minerals.

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What range of business opportunities are available in the marketing sphere for other players to participate in collaboration with MMCZ as the sole marketing agent for all minerals except gold and silver?

MMCZ has appointed Subagents to participate in the mine-to-market value chain for gemstones, the MMCZ has also entered into strategic partnerships with some diamond cutting and polishing factories for beneficiation of rough diamonds for sale to strategic markets. The Corporation also buys minerals on its own account thereby encouraging small to medium-scale miners to participate in the mine-to-market value chain.

In cutting and polishing of coloured gemstones diamonds and granite slabs, marketing opportunities are open to all individuals – both citizens and aliens as they can all freely buy and export any of these minerals through the Corporation.

Are there any plans for a central market where semi-precious mineral buyers can just jet into the country, get into the market, look for the stones they desire to buy and leave without travelling across the country?

Yes, of course. We have a model that has the supply side and the demand side of semi-precious mineral marketing. SI 256 of 2019 addressed the supply side of that model, modelled along the Mbare-Musika Marketing Model. The demand side is addressed by marketing our semi-precious stones to various markets through Fairs/Shows/Exhibitions and the various digital marketing platforms we are using. The next stage will be addressing the turn-around time for export documentation clearance to be done instantly once payment for the minerals has been done. We will be engaging stakeholders in the export documentation processing chain for a one-stop-shop concept to actualize instant export documentation processing in the marketing model. We believe this can be done under one roof, where Evaluations and Sales can take place instantly, while the same will be extended to online digital platforms for virtual transactions.

Trading centres have many advantages including access to gemstones by buyers and local factories, access to local and international markets, competitive prices are achieved and very effective in terms of gathering and sharing information with our clients and obtaining documentation. It is very necessary for the Corporation and key stakeholders to come up with a trade centre and boost gemstone sales. MMCZ has facilities that are used for precious stones sales that can also be utilized for sell of coloured gemstones

You have done exceptionally well in training people across the country. Is this opportunity open to foreign students interested in this initiative?

The trainings are meant to capacitate small-scale miners including special groups as a way of encouraging formalization, growth and boosting of efficiency gains in small-scale mining operations towards reaching the 12 billion mining economy by 2023.

Research is the mainstay of any marketing agency. What marketing studies or research have you carried out or commissioned to understand the short-term and long-term dynamics in the global market for the various mineral products that the country is producing and exporting, beyond establishing databases of producers and buyers?

MMCZ visits many mineral markets around the globe through indabas (Mining Indaba, RSA), Africa Down Under, mineral conferences and exhibitions where both short and long-term mineral and market trends are discussed. In this way, the Corporation keeps abreast of global market developments. In addition to these platforms, MMCZ makes direct visits to end-user factories where mineral products performance is assessed through a firsthand information-gathering process.

Research has mainly centred on primary data analysis on exports in the different global market segments. We know where most of our mineral products are going, how they move – the logistical challenges and capacities required and what these minerals are used for and our vision, mission and marketing strategy are anchored on such statistical analysis.

The Main Components of Electric Vehicle Batteries are Lithium, Manganese, Cobalt, Graphite, Steel and Nickel. Are there any open opportunities for these other 5 minerals other than Lithium?

Of course yes. I alluded to exploration opportunities earlier to open more deposits. There are opportunities to work on the brown field and greenfield deposits of manganese, graphite and nickel while a number of companies are investing in steel manufacturing.

The country is endowed with manganese, graphite, nickel and copper deposits. Investors and locals are welcome and encouraged to invest in mining, beneficiation and value addition of these minerals. Battery minerals present good investment opportunities for both local and foreign investors. Demand for these minerals is expected to increase in tandem with demand for EVs and clean solar energy.

This interview first appeared in the February 2023 issue of Mining Zimbabwe Magazine

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