Zimbabwe: Parliament Should Scrutinise Mining Deals

ZIMBABWE should involve parliament and cabinet in the granting of mining rights and mining deals as a means to curb rampant corruption which is mostly perpetrated by government officials, an independent watchdog has said.

Mining deals are currently approved and awarded by the Minister of Mines with special grants being given by President Robert Mugabe.

Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) said in its report on the state of corruption in the mining sector that there is urgent need for reform as government ministers are behind most corrupt activities concerning the extraction, sale and export of gold and diamonds in Zimbabwe.

"Through parliamentary scrutiny, all the mining deals are examined to ensure that there is transparency, accountability and probity on the part of the public officials involved," the report said. "This will remove the veil of secrecy currently synonymous with mining deals in Zimbabwe."

The finding of TIZ's reports focuses on gold, diamond and platinum mining in Kwekwe, Gwanda, Mhondoro-Ngezi and Chiadzwa.

In the mining of diamonds, particularly in Marange, politicians are believed to be influencing the awarding of the mining contracts.

TIZ says there is no transparent and accountable process in which concessions to mine diamonds in Zimbabwe are awarded.

"Basing on evidence prevailing on the ground, the study found out that all the companies that have been given mining rights to mine diamonds in Zimbabwe are those with close links to senior politicians in government and the military," read the report. "The Chinese company, Anjin is a beneficiary of having close links with senior politicians in government and the military as the instrumental means through which it gained access to the Marange diamonds."

To this effect, TIZ proposed an overhaul of the country's ambiguous mining policy; finalisation of the Diamond Act and capacitating of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority officials to effectively collect taxes and royalties to curb corruption that has cost the country millions of dollars through mineral leakages. Mineral leakages are a threat to the country's potential to generate export earnings in the region of US$2 billion annually over the medium - term and upwards of US$5 billion a year within 15 years.

The high level of graft has seen Zimbabwe being rated 163rd out of 176 countries by Transparency International's corruption perception index, making it the most corrupt nation in the Sadc region.

"An effective fight against corruption demands political will to back up intentions to mitigate corruption. The presidency should show serious resolve to do away with corruption in the mining sector by backing up prosecuting agencies such as the police when it comes to bringing to book politicians and bureaucrats found to be involved in corrupt deals in the mining sector."

It said government should come up with stiffer penalties that make it unattractive to engage in mineral related corruption.

According to the report, bureaucratic corruption is out of control in the Ministry of Mines and members of the police force as it emerged that ministry officials are in the habit of overtly demanding bribes or kickbacks from members of the public who wish to venture into mining in return for gold mining licences and mining claims in areas that are deemed lucrative in terms of mineral deposits.

"The Ministry of Mines officials have made it extremely difficult and almost impossible for people to venture into mining without paying some form of a bribe. It has become common occurrence that those who fail to pay bribes to ministry officials find themselves being supplanted for flimsy reasons either for encroaching into existing claims or having been allocated wrong claims," said TIZ.

Politicians from Zanu PF are accused of using their influence to derive personal gains from gold and diamond mining through forming syndicates with illegal panners and agents who act on their behalf to escape attention and public scrutiny.

The agents or "runners" are responsible for mining and even the illegal buying and selling of gold and diamonds on behalf of the politicians.

"Runners for politicians enjoy immense protection from the law such that their illegal activities are not usually investigated by the police," TIZ revealed.

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