MINING laws in Zimbabwe are criminal and must be urgently amended to empower the people and their communities, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara has said.
In an interview yesterday, DPM Mutambara, who gave the closing remarks at the just-ended inaugural World Diamond Conference in Victoria Falls, blamed the mining laws in Africa for undermining community development.
"The problem is that our current mining laws in Africa, in Zimbabwe, favour the investor. Our current mining laws be it in Botswana, be it in Namibia . . . in Africa in general, they empower the investor at the expense of the African community and the people," he said.
DPM Mutambara described the mining laws as "criminal".
"This is the point we are making that these mining laws must change and this is needed in all our countries," he said.
DPM Mutambara said the issue of looting of natural resources had not only occurred in the mining sector but in other areas.
"This has happened beyond minerals. It has applied to oil and our laws, regarding natural resources, must be changed to empower the African and ensure that the ordinary people benefit from their natural resources," he said.
DPM Mutambara said the mining laws allowed investors to get claims for free.
"There is no exploration done, there is no quantification of the asset done, there is no valuation done, consequently African governments, African communities, African people, survive on royalties and taxes when in fact they are the owners of the natural resources and should be paid dividends in addition to royalties and taxes," DPM Mutambara said.
He said for over 128 years investors had been formally extracting natural resources from Africa.
"There was extraction during colonial and post-colonial times and after the end of colonialism Africans did not change the mining laws.
"So the mining laws were not changed in 1980 in Zimbabwe, the mining laws were not changed in 1957 in Ghana, the mining laws were not changed in 1994 in South Africa and in 1989 in Namibia.
"We continued with the same criminal laws," he said.
DPM Mutambara said there was no evidence in Ghana for it to be called the Gold Coast, Johannesburg to be Egoli (City Of Gold) and the same story applies to Zimbabwe.
"So much gold, platinum and other several minerals have come out but there is no evidence. There is no evidence that there has been extraction of these rich minerals," he said.
DPM Mutambara said the only way to reverse these problems was to change mining laws.
He said the investors should have a sense of intricate value of the assets underground.
The mining laws, he said, would allow investors to take claims for free and list them on stock exchanges in countries such as Australia and Canada.
DPM Mutambara said foreign investors have been hypocritical and taken advantage of Africa's lax mining laws.
He identified Canada and Norway as countries where foreign investors are only given a seven percent stake while locals retain a 93 percent stake.
"Back in their own countries they quantify and value their minerals. In Australia and Canada they are benefiting from their minerals and putting value improving their economies.
"Africa is saying what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Africans must learn from Norway how it dealt with its oil and empowered their people. In Norway, they only allow seven percent, 93 percent is local ownership," he said.
DPM Mutambara commended Community Share Ownership Trusts bemoaning the perception created that companies were donating and doing favours to communities.
"That is the wrong perception. We hear Zimplats, Unki and Mimosa had donated US$10 million to community. It's wrong in fact it's the other way round," he said.
DPM said the claims these companies were working on belonged to the communities and the communities were donating these funds.
Government, he said, was coming up with a Diamond Bill and there will have a provision for the intricate value of diamonds to be given to the people of Zimbabwe.
"We are also changing the Mines and Minerals Act so that people are allowed to enjoy benefits from their natural resources," he said.
Government, he said, had since set up a geological and exploration company to establish and quantify all minerals in Zimbabwe.