Zim politicians scramble for trust control

Zimbabwe’s politicians are scrambling to gain control of trusts being set up for local communities to take up empowerment stakes in large foreign mining companies.


Last week platinum mine Zimplats, the local subsidiary of South African group Implats, launched a trust through which local communities in Ngezi, where its mine is located, would receive a 10% share of the mine and $10-million for development projects.

This was the first such move by a mine and it will soon be followed by ­several others in an effort to comply with Zimbabwe’s recently implemented indigenisation laws. Mimosa Mine, jointly owned by Implats and Aquarius Platinum, and Zimbabwe’s biggest coal miner, the Hwange Colliery Company, in which the government has shares, will also soon hand over stock to community trusts.

But local communities and the mines themselves have to fend off interference from political officials who want to exert influence over the trusts. With elections a possibility next year, Zanu-PF is hoping to use mine ownership as a new campaign tool among its poor rural support base, which up to now has been plied only with promises of land and food aid.

The trusts will be chaired by local traditional chiefs, most of whom are supporters of Zanu-PF surviving on party patronage.

Because each chief has his own powerful benefactor, there have been rows over control of the trusts. Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, who is a wealthy property baron, has been accused by local leaders of trying to muscle in on the Ngezi trusts.

Although Chombo has denied it, he has been quoted as saying powerful figures had been “visiting chiefs at night” to try to buy influence.

Bright Matonga, the Zanu-PF member of Parliament for the area, admitted there was a row among traditional leaders over who would head the Zimplats share trust.

“Disputes have arisen over the chairmanship of the trust, but we have decided that the chairmanship should be rotated [among local chiefs],” Matonga said.

CONTINUES BELOW

But Faber Chidarikire, provincial governor and a Zanu-PF supporter, said he would “not tolerate individualism and greed over the community share ownership trust”.

‘Holding the scraps’
There are fears that local communities will be left holding the scraps. Signs are that it is already happening: according to Matonga, one of the first projects the Zimplats money will fund is a “sewing plant” for local women.

Zimbabwe’s deputy empowerment minister, Tongai Matutu of the Movement for Democratic Change, said it was unclear who had overall control of the trusts — the chiefs or the politicians.

“Some of these traditional chiefs are at risk of being manipulated at the expense of their own communities,” Matutu said.

Matonga has told his community that “the benefits will start to pour into the community as early as December”. But there is doubt that communities will experience the real benefits of the trusts any time soon.

Zimbabwe’s vast mineral resources have brought little wealth to local communities. In Manicaland, home to the controversial Chiadzwa diamond fields, more than 300 villagers were moved from the fields to an abandoned state farm some 60km from their homes.

The farm had only basic housing, some of it in the form of converted tobacco barns, and there were no schools or other facilities. Years after the relocation the company that mines the diamond fields has finally promised to build new homes and proper amenities.

But villagers were still unsure that they would benefit, said Manicaland governor Christopher Mushohwe, a Zanu-PF official.

“The people of Manicaland, and indeed the people of Zimbabwe, are not fully seized with the nitty-gritty of the policy of empowerment. What is the clear policy on community trusts? Who should benefit and how?” he asked recently.

Zanu-PF has said openly that its own supporters will benefit the most. The MDC did not support the programme, so “our people, our Zanu-PF supporters, will benefit and become empowered through this programme”, Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said.

Speaking at the launch of the Implats trust last week, President Robert Mugabe told chief executive Dave Brown that Zimbabwe had no intention of taking over the company.

“Mr Brown, go and tell your shareholders that we don’t intend to take over [Zimplats]. We don’t want to steal or rob that which does not belong to us, but we don’t want to be robbed as well,” Mugabe said.

Article source: http://mg.co.za/article/2011-10-24-zim-politicians-scramble-for-trust-control/

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