by Pretty Chavango
Public hearings on the draft Mines and Minerals Bill are in the pipeline aimed at replacing the archaic Mines and Minerals Act of 1963. Hopes are high that amendments to this outdated piece of legislature will be passed in Parliament to provide realignment of laws with new mining developments .
While a new Act in its entirety would have been more ideal than patching an old one, amendments to the old Act have no guarantee to be passed in Parliament as plans to amend this Act have been sidelined for a long while. Civil societies and mining players have their fingers crossed and this time backed by remarks by Mines and Mineral minister Walter Chidhakwa on how amendment is now a matter of necessity not choice in order to attract investors.
With the recent disappearance of the USD$15 billion Chiadzwa money, the new Act must above all provide for transparency to avoid abuse of power. In Zimbabwe the rights to minerals are vested in the President. The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) has laid out their recommendations for the impending bill which they say should address issues of secrecy shrouding the entire mining sector. ZELA Media and communications Officer Darlington Muyambwa called for a rights based approach focusing on community rights.
The current act has been criticized for not specifying the clear role of Parliament on contract negotiation considering that they came up with this bill. The bill needs clarity on tax and levies paid by miners. Environmental lawyer and researcher with ZELA Tinashe Chisaira says the mining field is now crowded with too many players while Parliament has no clear powers to veto any questionable players in the mining sector. “This bill does not consider issues of gender in work or relocation of displaced persons who are also not engaged prior to relocation.” On its positives the current bill does not enable exclusive mining rights to a single player and environmental considerations are taken into account.
A Zimbabwean stake holder cannot transfer mining rights to a non indigenous person. Calls to expedite the amendment process have been made from different sectors, with hopes that the public hearings will not face the same ending as on the National peace and reconciliation bill which recorded an adverse report culminating in it not being passed.