- July 13, 2020
- Posted in LOCAL
Different concerns continue to be raised on the nature of corporate social responsibility (CSR) or corporate social investment (CSI) practices in Zimbabwe.
By Edmond Mkaratigwa (MBA in Energy and Sustainability and Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development) & Albert Maipisi (PhD in Disaster Management).
The local communities living in mining areas for long feel that they deserve better from investing organisations yet some investors have the view that every person should eat out of their perspiration. Surprisingly sometimes when engaging communities living in mining communities, they usually fail to initiate and suggest new models that can address their concerns yet they advance that they are suffering from the negative effects of existing extraction works. They appear stuck within the intellectual dictatorship of history and experience than forging a more reasonable way forward that surpasses current arrangements. Others appear caught-up in the thicket of endless activism, complaining, challenging, and negotiation against the status quo and for something newer, bigger, better, and difficult to particularly define.
Without qualms with any of the approaches, it becomes necessary to think through the aspect of corporate social responsibility or investment which falls within the domains of philanthropy, social licensing, and the different branches of sustainability. There are narrowly three stakeholders to this debate. The first category comprises owners of capital visibly represented through business corporatism. The second cluster belongs to popular politics which is rooted in bureaucracy whose branches are divided through social corporatism that has given rise to the concept of different ministries of government. The third and final grouping is what is formed of the people and is called the community, which is composed of those who live around the mining areas, civil society organisations and individuals who may be local or external but mainly sympathetic to the referred communities.
The owners of capital represented by the business corporatists may hail locally although that has been very rare with bigger mining companies. Business corporatists have vastly been locals and to a larger extent nationals with the broader base-level employees being predominantly from local mining communities due to lesser technical skills-set job demands. Some owners of capital and corporatists mostly end up being part of the politics. Also, the community is part of the politics while part of the bureaucracy is part of the community, capital, politics, and business corporatists. These groups that belong to the different institutions of society can benefit from each other if they work together in good faith which is often difficult hence whereas they all matter, they also connive and collide in order to achieve their diverse interests.
Lacking amongst them to a greater extent is dialogue yet their ultimate interests are the common good of society that starts with the realisation of individual ambition. Oftentimes the three appear to be fighting. The community sometimes accuses politics and capital owners of conniving against them while the owners of capital can also assume that politics and community are conniving to collide against them. Demands made by the community (with support from the civil society) to and through politics to the owners of capital are sometimes not premised on science than normative means of judgment on what the communities deserve. For example, if they demand employment for their children, it is not always given that these children will be employed long enough to raise their own kids and that they will get salaries that will cause a significant change in their lives and lifestyles. On the other hand, the push on government by communities to create jobs for their children can weaken the negotiation power of government against target potential capital towards the country.
Communities usually do not have large scale equipment and machinery to exploit resources for themselves locally without extra-community investment support yet in their incapacity envy those who exploit, then raise their voices to politics for support. That is the ordinary thinking. It becomes very needful thereafter and after previous experiences, for capital owners, community, and politics to dialogue around corporate social responsibility and investment in advance and have the arrangement institutionalised to avoid future ambushes from and against the three that matter, connive and collide. In other instances, the social corporatist (bureaucrat) is further not fully proofed from conniving with the owners of capital against other owners of capital as they can also become owners of capital directly or indirectly leading to a collision between two or more other owners of capital and sometimes in collaboration with politics. Such is unacceptable in deontological ethics but that is happening consequentially until they are caught in tracks or a trail of evidence is discovered and that is usually possible where any of the three that matter collide.
Another interesting category of the community are the working class from the different mining communities now dispersed throughout the world. They always say they left their communities many years ago and until now they see no significant change hence the companies in the areas are ungrateful and not ploughing back hence the communities should join hands and demand. Those stand up against politics and owners of capital or want to join hands with politics for the sake of their communities. The only question that is of significance is why that part of the community only see gaps in their communities yet they also are to a greater extent not doing much for their community. If these three that matter can join hands, there is high potential for community development in the country as that part of the community is anticipated to be more enlightened to contribute towards the formulation of new initiatives. Most of the communities where mines are located have the elderly and youths hence there is mostly recycling of interventions they have experienced before without newer initiatives or the communities solely rely on the capital owners with support from their business corporatists with minimum contribution from communities in developing programmes as one can only contribute what they know and imagine.
Jobs are often cited as the biggest contribution of capital owners to society but the challenge is whether the employment opportunity will leave someone more resilient than vulnerable. The world is changing and with modernisation and increased access to information, people’s views of life are shifting. In mining communities where mines have temporarily closed, former workers have been found to be going back to the mines to exploit and the employability loyalty of those who have tasted that life may be difficult to tame again in the future. Those anticipations are normal because in the husbandry of man there is no fallow. It means the mind of those will become more inclined towards owning capital than to be business corporatists whenever mining operations would resume. Of course, enforcements will be made through social corporatists (politics) but the mindset will never be cleansed since the mind is not elastic which will return to its original position after a stretching experience.
Where that exists, again, one who once belonged to the category of capital owners and then reverts back to become a business corporatist can easily connive with the community to collide with the capital owner (new employer). These challenges are being witnessed were former mine workers of a once closed mine are demanding for claims in the mines they have been working in and then become (temporary) owners during the period of its closure That is more visible where the community or business corporatists had been left without employment and livelihood certainty and then negotiations with new investors who will have to take over the mine ensue later. With impatience towards other companies that are not mining but holding on to resources with no or delayed benefits to communities, the communities and other capital owners are further demanding from and through politics (and social corporatists), the authority to exploit the idle resources; hence the three that matter, connive and collide requires agile action for inclusive and sustainable development of the country to be achieved.
Published ideas are entirely views of the authors as academics and cannot be attributed to their current positions.
This article first appeared in the July 2020 issue of Mining Zimbabwe Magazine