Elliot Ziwira Senior Writer
Although history recalls that Zimbabwe’s anti-colonial struggles of the 1890s and 1970s were triggered by the land issue, it can be argued that it was about the soil.
In its broader sense, land covers a wide gamut; rivers, mountains, buildings, forests and minerals. White settlers appropriated the richer parts of the land as determined by the composition of the soil, and condemned blacks to arid, dry and barren areas, like Shangani and Gwai. Through assessment of the soil, colonists could tell the wealth underneath.
In their mission of robbery, disguised as Christian civilisation, white settlers were informed by four aspects of the soil. The first thing that informed them was the texture (it had to be loamy), then the colour (preferably dark red); the third feature was the environment (lush vegetation); and the fourth issue had to sum up the tangibles therein (mineral resources).
The annexation of Mashonaland and Matabeleland was driven more by greed for minerals like gold than the desire to farm, especially so in Matabeleland. The offer for participation in the colonial project for the mercenaries known as the Pioneer Column was 1 200 hectares (3 000 acres) of arable land and 15 mining claims (adding up to 8,5 hectares or 21 acres).
Accompanied by 180 civilian colonists, 62 wagons and 200 volunteers who would later become part of the British South Africa Police (BSAP), Starr Johnson, Cecil John Rhodes’ emissary, set on the mission to colonise Mashonaland and Matabeleland, thus setting in motion a discriminatory system of plunder, brutality and murder that would last close to a 100 years.
By the time the indigenous people, inspired by the quest to be free to determine their destiny, took up arms in the 1890s (First Chimurenga) and 1970s (Second Chimurenga), the settler apparatus had wreaked havoc on the mineral rich belly of the Motherland.
With no close monitoring on who got what in relation to the offer of land and mining claims, colonists amassed large swathes of arable land, either for farming or mining, and elbowed out blacks from their ancestral heritage.
Blacks were locked out of the colonial enterprise that enriched settler kin and kith through pillaging of African resources.
For close to 40 years now, Zimbabweans have been celebrating the reclamation of their heritage, which has given them access to the means of production — the land, thus opening up opportunities in agrarian and mining spaces for livelihood routes.
One of the ministries that has been at the forefront in ascertaining that Zimbabweans benefit from their heritage, is the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.
At the helm of the ministry is Honourable Winston Chitando, deputised by Honourable Polite Kambamura with Mr Onesimo Moyo as the Permanent Secretary.
Inspired by the vision to achieve a stable and sustainable US$12 billion mining industry by 2023, the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development’s obligation is to generate revenue for the nation State of Zimbabwe through mining. Committed to the provision of a service guided by specified standards and within set time-frames, the ministry engages various external and internal stakeholders.
Among its purposes, the ministry endeavours to promote sustainable investment, exploration, mining, value addition and beneficiation, marketing and management of mineral resources for the benefit of all citizens. It also administers the Mines and Minerals Act (Chapter 21:05); formulates, monitors and evaluates implementation of mining expansion policies geared to efficiently account for the country’s mineral resources for the benefit of every Zimbabwean.
Colonial agenda: Taking an excursion underground
The colonial project was pivoted on a non-thinking, non-feeling machine that fed on human blood and sweat, and as a result white Rhodesians would be rewarded with gold and other minerals from the belly of the earth.
Gold mining in Zimbabwe goes back centuries in time, way before colonialism. The arrival of settlers brought mechanised mining methods which required labour and heightened plunder.
When white Rhodesians set up mines on gold claims begotten on deceit and violence, they forced blacks to work in them for next to nothing. Thousands of black people were buried under the mineshafts, and those who survived the dying underground contracted diseases like tuberculosis which in a way was death in motion.
The Wankie (Hwange) Coal Mine disaster of June 6, 1972, for example, claimed 427 lives of black miners from South Africa, Angola, Zambia, Malawi and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) following a series of suspected methane gas explosions underground at Wankie Number 2 Colliery (Kamandama Shaft). The mishap remains the deadliest to date in the history of Zimbabwe.
Reportedly, the general manager of the mine, Gordon Livingstone-Blevins, on June 9 decided to leave the bodies where they were.
Because colonialism wasn’t designed to benefit Africans, proceeds of mining activities were shipped to Europe and America to develop economies there.
Bemoaning the ousting of Roland “Tiny” Rowland, whom he believed to have had a heart for Africa, as Lonrho’s chief executive in 1994, the then Mines Minister Eddison Zvobgo pointed out how multinationals plundered the continent’s resources to develop their countries in the West.
He decried: “Let me take the case of Lonrho . . . Apart from owning about one million acres (400 000 hectares) in Zimbabwe, they produce about 175 000 ounces of Zimbabwean gold—nearly 30 percent of this country’s total production of gold.”
Dr Zvobgo drove his point home: “The company started here (in 1961) and grew into 800 companies around the world. Without profits made here, Lonrho would not have bought Ashanti Gold Mine for three million pounds in 1969.
“Now Western Platinum would be floated off, without Zimbabwe benefiting, for a figure in excess of one billion pounds.”
He revealed that there were rumours that Lonrho was in the process of parcelling out all mines in their portfolio into a London-based holding company with the view to floating it, as the management exhibited no interest in Africa save for looting the continent (The Herald, 23 February 1995).
From almost nothing in 1961, Lonrho grew into 800 companies across the world.
The journey and milestones
Zimbabwe is rich in minerals, some of which are: gold, silver, platinum group metals (PGMs) consisting of platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium; diamonds, chrome, coal, nickel, asbestos, coal bed methane, copper, iron, pegmatite (tantalite, tin and wolframite, beryl, mica, feldspar, gemstones such as emerald, aquamarine, chrysoberyl, alexandrite and euclase), and dimension stones (Granites, gneisses, migmatites, gabbro-norites, dolerite, marbles and quartzites).
The country has the second largest high grade chromium ores in the world after South Africa with reserves of approximately 10 billion tonnes.
The immediate task of the Government of Zimbabwe at Independence in 1980, therefore, was to correct colonial inequalities that impoverished black people as they were made to eke it out on the beach of gold as labourers and semi-skilled workers.
Policies were put in place to benefit citizens from their ancestral heritage while encouraging foreign investment and joint ventures.
The Zimbabwe Business and Industrial Trade Exhibition (Zimbex), which began in the early 1990s, encouraged participants to learn from each and promote local, regional and international trade. The Zimbex ’94 attracted 12 000 people and generated $100 million worth of business.
Market reforms introduced in 1990 saw production increasing from $4,5 billion in 1995 to $5 billion in 1996.
To close the skills gap created by discriminatory colonial laws, Government established the School of Mines through the Chamber of Mines which contributed $600 000 towards the construction of the school in 1992 so as to address the needs of the mining industry.
The ministry collaborated with the Association of Canadian Community Colleges with the assistance of Canadian International Development Agency to establish a twinning programme with the Haileybury School of Mines in an exchange programme valued at $1,2 million, designed to assist in the development of teacher training curriculum.
In 1992, the Canadian International Development availed a $12,7 million package to further enhance the development of the School of Mines in conjunction with the ministry. By the same year mining earnings were expected to grow to US$2 billion.
According to the Zimbabwe Investment Centre, in 1994, the ministry approved 222 mining projects worth $2,6 billion, gaining on the 204, valued at $1,2 million approved in the previous year. The highest of these figures was the $1,8 billion BHP Platinum Project which was expected to become Zimbabwe’s largest mining operation by 1996.
At the time it was considered the largest single mining investment since Ian Smith’s 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). At its full throttle in 1996, the project was envisaged to create 2 000 jobs.
However, although there were 209 new projects approved in 1994, translating to 94 percent, only 5,1 percent ($135,6 million) of them were local. The positive side though, was that joint ventures went up 15 percent in 1993 to 78,4 percent. The value of the joint venture projects rose from $287,6 million to $2,099 billion. With more foreign investors opting for joint ventures with locals, foreign schemes dropped from 64 percent in 1993 to 22 percent in 1994.
Through joint ventures Zimbabweans were able to lay claim to their heritage and participate in the economic development of their country.
The projects approved were expected to create 7 218 jobs annually over a period of five years. Major foreign investors were China, the Netherlands and South Africa, who were emerging major investing countries alongside the United Kingdom. The United States of America and Mauritius were the other investors. The Zimbabwe Investment Centre aimed to attract $500 million worth of new projects in 1995.
In 1994, the ministry moved to transform the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation from a mines running company to a promotional one with limited shareholding in mining ventures, thus reverting to its original mandate.
The ZMDC was established to explore minerals before inviting other players to exploit them. When Transvaal Corporation gave up Kamativi Tin Mine, ZMDC went in to save the 700 jobs that were at the cliff-edge, although running mines was not its original obligation.
As part of its mandate, the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development opened up space for small-scale miners. The post-2000 Fast Track Land Reform Programme, which created agrarian opportunities to millions of Zimbabweans, also changed the mining landscape.
Cognisant of the role that small-scale and artisanal miners play in the mining sector globally, and also as a way of creating opportunities for all Zimbabweans, the ministry issued mining licences to citizens above the age of 18. Ordinary gold prospecting licence fees and registration fees for mining claims were shelved in 2018 to formalise the sector and increase production.
In a 2013 report titled “Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining”, the World Bank reveals that artisanal and small-scale mining occurs in about 80 countries globally, with approximately 100 million artisanal miners participating.
The report shows that 80 percent of global sapphire, 20 percent of gold mining and up to 20 percent diamond mining production comes from artisanal and small-scale miners. Hence, over 100 million people are ensured of sustainable livelihoods as compared to seven million employed in mining industries.
In Zimbabwe, the artisanal and small-scale mining sector has been a major contributor to the total gold output, hence, the ministry’s efforts to rope the sector in to curb stigmatisation.
According to Fidelity Printers and Refiners, the sector accounted for 22 of the 34 tonnes of gold produced in 2018, representing a 65 percent contribution. Gold exports contributed US$1,33 billion in the same year.
To attract foreign direct investment, the Government relaxed shareholding regulations for mining operations. Foreign investors are now allowed to own 100 percent shareholding in all mineral ventures except for platinum and diamonds.
In joint ventures for diamond and platinum mining the Government is entitled to 51 percent while the foreign investor would get 49 percent shareholding.
The US$4,2 Karo Resources project officially launched by President Mnangagwa in 2018 is another milestone to celebrate. The consolidated platinum project in Mhondoro-Mubaira is set to create a combined 90 000 jobs.
The first 15 000 jobs will come directly from employment by Karo Resources, while 75 000 will be created through secondary and tertiary industries when the project reaches its peak by 2023.
The investor will also establish a power plant with a 600 megawatt capacity, enough to drive the mine and contribute the surplus to the national grid.
The ministry also made strides towards the resuscitation of Delta Gold’s Eureka Mine in Guruve which is expected to attain its production target of two tonnes of gold by 2021, after President Mnangagwa re-commissioned the mine in 2018.
In line with the national Vision 2030, the ministry targets to hit 100-tonne gold production by 2023, and achieve its mission to have a stable and sustainable US$12 billion mining industry by the same year.
In addition the multi-billion Arcadia Lithium Project, launched by the President in 2019, and expected to go into production within 18 months will also go a long way in creating employment opportunities for Zimbabweans and grow the economy.
In January 2020, Great Dyke Investments began mining on its Darwendale concessions after years of preparation.
The US$2 billion project is a joint venture between Russia’s Vi Holdings and Zimbabwe’s Landela Mining Venture Pvt Ltd.
The ministry has four parastatals under its wing; the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, Hwange and Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company.
The US$1,1 billion Hwange venture is the largest project under the milestone deals signed between Zimbabwe and China, and is expected to feed 600 megawatts into the national grid — easing the country’s power challenges.
The main contractor executing the Hwange 7 and 8 power expansion, Sinohydro indicates the project is 40 percent complete. The project has provided employment for 1 812 locals.
The Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company is projected to increase production to 10 million carats worth about US$1 billion by 2023. True, the journey might have been bumpy here and there during the past 20 years due to induced pressures as a result of sanctions imposed by the West on the Motherland, but as the nation State of Zimbabwe celebrates its 40th anniversary on April 18, 2020, it will be worthwhile to revel in the countless mining mileposts thus far passed.