AS consultations for the new Economic Empowerment Act continue countrywide, people from Matabeleland South province have called for protective clauses to empower locals to benefit more from vast gold deposits in their areas.
The province has rich gold reserves in areas such as Gwanda, Insiza, Matobo, Umzingwane and Mangwe districts where large and small-scale miners are operating. The province is also one of the major contributors to gold deliveries to Fidelity Printers and Refiners, whose export proceeds anchor a greater part of forex requirements for the economy.
On Friday, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce held a meeting here with stakeholders seeking their input on the proposed law, which replaces the old indigenisation and economic empowerment law.
Speaking during the meeting, stakeholders said the 51-49 percent shareholding threshold must be applied to the gold sector as Matabeleland South province was rich in that resource.
They complained that policy gaps had resulted in foreign investors benefiting more from exploiting minerals in the province while locals were excluded.
“The Indigenisation and Empowerment Act only set the 51-49 percent threshold to apply to platinum and diamond and gold was left out. We want the new Act to involve gold in this threshold because in places like Matabeleland South we mainly have gold and people from outside the province are hugely benefiting from it while locals are not benefiting from the resources, which are in their area,” said Gwanda Rural District Council chief executive officer, Mr Ronnie Sibanda.
He also said that funds under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce should be decentralised to districts and provinces. Gwanda Community Share Ownership Trust administrator, Mr Coaster Nkala, said the new Act should compel companies especially those in the extractive industry to remit 10 percent to the community through CSOT’s.
He said some mining companies were refusing to give anything to the community as the current legislation did not compel them.
Mr Nkala said Section 13 of the Constitution demands that Government should facilitate that people benefited from their local resources. As such, he said the Act should empower women and the youth as well.
Mr. Nqobizitha Sibanda who is a member of the business community said corporate social responsibility should be a must under the Act. He said the province had a number of big companies but the areas they were operating on had poor roads, schools, and clinics.
“Harmonisation of policies has remained a challenge within ministries. Policies that we come up with have to be harmonised with policies in sister ministries so that they don’t clash. Tendering also has to be decentralised,” he said. “At the moment everything is centralised in Harare, which gives suppliers based there greater advantaged compared to local suppliers. This hinders local suppliers from growing.”
The ministry’s director for legal services, Mr Never Katiyo, said the proposed empowerment law was meant for Government’s economic transformation drive.
“It was the decision of the Cabinet to come up with the Economic Empowerment Act, which will replace the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act that had loopholes.
“As the Ministry of Industry and Commerce we were tasked to carry out consultation meetings in various provinces in order to solicit views on what different stakeholders want included in the new legislation,” he said in an interview.
“Matabeleland South is the 9th province that we are visiting. We are at the stage of coming up with principles of the Act.”
Acting director for economic empowerment in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Mr Michael Fungati, said Government officially amended the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act through amendments contained in the Finance Act of 2018.
“The amendments have, however, left a gap in legislation regarding the subsidiary legislation and regulations that fell under the purview of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act. In line with the national vision of catapulting the economy to an upper middle-class status by 2030 and the mantra ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’, an urgent need arises for the gaps in legislation to be addressed.
“The Indigenisation Empowerment Act is being repealed not only as a result of Government changes in policy on indigenisation laws but in line with global trends of development to address legislative gaps that exist regarding economic empowerment,” he said.
Mines and Mining Development provincial head, Mr Tichaona Makuza, said purpose of the proposed law should clearly outline and specify who needed to be empowered. — @DubeMatutu