MUTARE- Civil groups advocating for transparency in the mining sector have urged government to codify the social license concept to address growing negative public sentiment against Chinese business operations in Zimbabwe.
In a joint press statement released by twenty six Zimbabwe Civil Society groups, led by the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) the stakeholders spoke out against ‘investment projects that disempower and impoverish our people.’
The civic players said adoption of such legal framework will help in monitoring for compliance as well as ensuring shared development with communities in resoruce rich areas.
“Our joint statement is not meant to defame China or trigger xenophobic resentment towards Chinese nationals in Zimbabwe we seek fair and mutually beneficial relations between the two countries.
“We have however noted with deep concern the threats of displacements and mining projects in ecologically sensitive places around the country without any due regard for the concerns of the local people,” read part of the statement.
It was noted that growing resentment towards Chinese investments in Zimbabwe, is emanating from a history of China as a dominant player in Zimbabwe’s minerals sector (small-scale and large-scale) with mining operations in rural areas.
“Local communities have come to realise (without any external influence) the losses they are incurring at the hands of the Chinese companies operating in their localities.
“It is important to note that Zimbabweans are so learned to be able to distinguish exploitative, destructive development from progressive development without having to be influenced by anyone,” read part of the statement.
Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust (GGZT) director Frank Mphalo said growing negative public sentiment should be indicative of community perception.
GGZT is also part of the coalition of civic society groups which endorsed the statement urging the government to promote responsible investment.
Mphalo said public opinion is informed by a sustained observation and analysis of the Chinese investment patterns across sectors as largely manipulative of locals.
“Public opinion is not fickle, it is nurtured over time by critical observation and Chinese investors have not helped their own case by being defensive.
“Government should respect its own citizens and investigate matters involving human rights violations by investors,” he said.
Zimbabwe Advanced Mine Workers Union (ZIAMU) a pro-rights group which defends and promotes worker rights also urged for enforcement and compliance of national statutes by investors.
ZIAMU called for the law enforcement, EMA, rural district councils and Chiefs to conduct their mandate of protecting natural resources and local people without intimidation or fear of victimisation by those siding with the investors.
“We have said this before, there should be a law that governs the relationship between investors and host communities. These impromptu meetings are unlikely to yield any positive results for catchment communities. Government is clearly complicit,” said ZIAMU.
In Manicaland province diamond mining operations have left deep scars in the affected communities, with the Marange community left in the cold by Anjin after it operated between 2011 and 2016.
Anjin has since bounced back, without addressing the legacy issues including arbitrary dismissal of workers, some still owed to this day.
Similarly, recent disturbances in Nov 2021 where the Marange community recently protested against Anjin resulted in 29 of them, including the Headman being arrested.
In Mutare, there was a recent outcry after a Chinese company, Freestone Mines, started ground preparation for quarrying at Dangamvura mountain without an environmental impact assessment.
Civil society said there are many cases across the country where the Chinese investors have been in a standoff with local communities including desecration of shrines and graves in Mudzi black granite mines and Dinde coal explorations in Hwange.