MUTARE – Following what they feel is failure to economically transform the mineral rich region by outgoing minister Obert Mpofu during his tenure, the Manicaland region is taking it upon itself to set the agenda for the incoming Minister of Mines and Mining Development.
Pressing items on the agenda include a demand for the immediate operationalisation of all idle-diamond funded developmental projects that were initiated in the province, as well as a re-think of where value-adding diamond projects and events should be located.
The eastern region feels the alluvial gems worth billions of dollars have so far failed to transform the economically struggling province.
Manicaland Province is home to one of the biggest diamond concessions with an estimated potential to supply 25 percent of global demand.
The country has the capacity to produce between 110 to 160 million carats of diamonds annually, with the bulk coming from the Chiadzwa fields.
Politicians, the business community and pressure groups in Manicaland would like to see a “committed and responsible” Minister of Mines in the next government.
They believe this would be a turning point towards the development of the mineral-rich region.
High on the list of their demands is the hasty execution of the US$50 million Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust (CSOT), which was meant to be a transparent vehicle for the proportional distribution of national resources for collective development.
A year after the Marange-Zimunya CSOT was officially commissioned by President Robert Mugabe in August last year, the coffers are still dry and there has been no development emanating from its planned utilisation.
The region is also disgruntled by what is being viewed as questionable decisions made by Mpofu to have the construction of a diamond cutting and polishing centre in Harare and the hosting of the Zimbabwe Diamond Conference in Victoria Falls at the expense of Manicaland.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara had proposed that the centre be situated either in Marange or Mutare to boost infrastructural development and employment in the mineral-rich area.
In April this year, Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa also questioned the logic behind Mpofu’s decisions when he addressed journalists in Mutare.
“I don’t know the logic behind such decisions. But all I know is that if I was the Minister of Mines, all these developments would have been done in Manicaland. Even the awarding of licenses of diamond mining companies operating in Chiadzwa could have been offered to companies from Manicaland first,” said Mutasa then.
There is also intense lobbying from the Manicaland Business Action Group (MBAG), which accuses the mining companies operating in Chiadzwa of failing to support struggling industries in Mutare by not awarding them tenders to supply goods and services.
A cross-section of officials who spoke to The Financial Gazette concurred that the Mines Minister has a huge task ahead.
Mutare South losing legislator Freddy Kanzama said it was the duty of the minister to act responsibly and ensure that funds meant for development are distributed proportionally.
“It’s the responsibility and commitment of the Cabinet minister who will hold the office to implement national development with clear understanding that Manicaland is part of the nation when dealing with funds from diamond mining.
“The minister should ensure that funds generated from diamond mining, which are meant for development are distributed proportionally,” said Kanzama.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) president, Hlanganiso Matangaidze, hopes that the minister would be a “competent” individual.
He said the nature of companies operating in respective regions should be reflective of the resources found in a specific area.
“In terms of industries, they should go along with the type of resources found in the area. Take for example timber, manufacturing companies should be established where the resource is found. The same translates to diamonds. And it is the duty of the minister who takes up the ministry (to ensure this is done),” Matangaidze said, however adding, “But we should also take a cue from what President Mugabe said. In as much as locals should benefit from their resources, it should be known that they are state resources (that should benefit everyone).”
Zimbabwe National Resource Dialogue Forum coordinator, Freeman Bhoso, said Manicaland has high expectations from the minister to bring reality to the Marange-Zimunya trust.
“It’s quite unfortunate that with the past four-and a-half years under the Government of National Unity Manicaland has achieved little gains despite owning one of the richest diamond fields ever.
“The new minister has a huge task of making sure that the home province of the Chiadzwa diamonds benefits from its wealth in terms of development. The minister must also have a strong drive to push for the fulfilment of the (Marange-Zimunya Community Share) ownership scheme. The communities should benefit,” said Bhoso.
Bhoso said the failure by Manicaland to benefit from its resources could also be symptomatic of the current system of governance that does not allow disbursement of developmental funds.
The provincial chairman of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Welshman Ncube, David Mundirwira is of the view that the current Constitution which enshrines devolution, if implemented in full, would see to it that Manicaland benefits from its resources.
Powered by WPeMatico