Zimbabwe: Mines Act Gives Minister Excessive Powers

editorial

On the eve of International Day Commemorations December 9 President Robert Mugabe pledged to fight corruption by firing corrupt ministers.

The president's sentiments are commendable as they reflect a certain level of political will. These sentiments should however be followed by a number of actions from the Executive.

Corruption in government ministers is fuelled by loopholes within the policy, legal and institutional frameworks in the country. The Executive should review some of the policies, institutions and various legislation governing ministries.

The gaps within these frameworks fuel corruption involving ministries.

Of particular interest are preliminary findings by TI-Z on the loopholes in the mining sector.

This study among many other things established that the Mines and Minerals Act (Chapter 21:05) which is the main piece of legislation governing mining in Zimbabwe is outdated. This law has been in force since 1965 and has been amended several times to reflect the prevailing socio-economic realities. The Act is old and perpetuates the colonial legacy.

The colonial era was characterised by despotism, racial bias and the enactment of laws that unfairly empowered those in power.

This legacy seems to have been carried over into post-independence Zimbabwe and this has created an environment that promotes corruption involving the elite, politicians and security personnel. A close analysis of the Act reveals that it has sections that are out of sync with tenets of democracy and good governance.

The anachronistic sections have created unnecessary room for rent-seeking behaviour.

The Act also gives wide discretionary powers to the minister of mines and mining development and his ministry officials. For example, under the Act the minister of mines has the final say in the granting of Exclusive Prospecting Order (EPO) instead of it being done collectively with the Mining Affairs Board.

An EPO confers the exclusive right to prospect for specified minerals in any defined area in Zimbabwe. The maximum possible period for operating an EPO is six years. Thus, EPOs in the mining of gold, diamonds and platinum are highly sought by those who intend to mine these minerals and are prepared to bribe government officials to get hold of them.

Part II of the Act gives the minister the powers to appoint the Mining Affairs Board whose function inter alia covers the issuance of mining licences. The minister appoints the chairperson of the board and the bulk of its members. This opens room for patronage politics as the people appointed to the board are likely to pay allegiance to the minister.

Objectivity in the granting of mining licences is eroded as the whole board cannot oppose the minister, even in cases where there is evidence of outright corruption in the awarding of licences.

It is disturbing to note that since the formation of Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission no arrests have been made by the commission despite high levels of corruption in the country. This is also shown by the recently released Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2012 which ranks Zimbabwe among the most corrupt countries in the world.

Faith-based organisations, such as the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, Zimbabwe Council of Churches and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe must be commended for taking a leading role in fighting corruption.

Their participation in this year's anti-corruption day commemorations revealed their commitment to the fight.

Churches play a central role in reminding the nation of its moral compass. They have the evangelical obligation to influence the moral values of the nation. Also, church organisations should be encouraged to shun corruption and ban politicians masquerading as church leaders to hide their ill-gotten wealth.

The media should be applauded for the continued coverage of corruption-related issues. The media can also influence the government to reform policies and laws that hinder the fight against corruption.

As we look into 2013 and hold on to the veracity of the President's statements, much is premised on a bullish approach by the leadership to deal with corruption in all sectors.

This requires setting benchmarks of how the state will effectively weed out corrupt elements within its ranks. This should be done in an internationally acceptable manner because of Zimbabwe's obligation to international treaties and protocols, namely the Sadc Protocol against Corruption and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption among others.

TI-Z looks forward to a more robust national strategy to the fight against corruption.

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