Wednesday, October 28, 2009

South African Firms Muscle in on Zimbabwe's Diamonds

It is treachery and betraying Brotherhood of Nations when a country which is extremely poor is plundered of her natural Resources leaving her people hungry and desolate. What South Africa is doing against the people of Zimbabwe. It does not matter at this stage whether the Government of the day in South Africa has knowledge of this or not but this is something no one expected to be done against a Country torn with wars of all sorts. But South African 'investors' (infesters!) are known of such activities even in other countries in Africa... 

Tuesday’s Special Assignment exposes the blatant disregard for the rule of law and continued plundering of the diamond fields in Eastern Zimbabwe.  New evidence suggests that South African firms have muscled in, and are mining there illegally.

“We have nothing to hide. We are going ahead with the exploitation of our resources, and nothing will stop us,” said Zimbabwean Minister of Mines, Obert Mpofu, confidently dismissing reports of atrocities and smuggling from the diamond fields in Eastern Zimbabwe.

Travelling the road to Chiadzwa, his words sound more and hollow. The area holds one of the world’s richest deposits of alluvial diamonds.  The gems lie close to the surface of the ground, making them easy to collect by hand. It is hard not notice the “gweja’s,” the Shona term for illegal panners.  Group after group of young men, carrying nothing but a plastic bag over their shoulder, head for the diamond fields hoping for a share in its riches.  It is at the risk of their lives.   

The area is heavily militarized and every few kilometers one is stopped by a security check point, manned by police and soldiers.  Only last month, Moreblessing Tirivangani, was beaten to death during a rotation of army units who patrol the area.   

A year ago the military killed hundreds of people, and tortured even more, in a brutal clampdown on illegal mining activities.  Now soldiers are cashing in on the gems.   

“Nearly every soldier that is in Chiadzwa at the moment is involved in panning in one way or the other. They have also formed syndicates so that those panners will get the escort of the military and they continue panning with the protection of the soldiers,” says Farai Maguwu, Director of the Centre for Research and Development, an NGO that has been documenting violations in Chiadzwa.  

Many of the diamonds are smuggled into Mozambique .  The town of Vila de Manica is only 18 kilometres from the border with Zimbabwe .  It is crawling with illegal dealers from countries like Lebanon , Sierra Leone , Guinea , DRC, Nigeria and Israel .  Newly painted houses, bristling with barbed wire and CCTV cameras, are guarded by men armed with AK 47s.  Every day streams of Zimbabweans arrive to sell their stones, stolen from Chiadzwa.  They admit it is with the help of army syndicates and senior government politicians. 

The lack of control on the diamond fields of Chiadzwa, extends beyond pillaging by the army. Last month, mining firm African Consolidated Resources plc. (ACR) won a High Court ruling confirming their title to the Marange diamond fields.  In 2006, the Zimbabwe government seized the claims from ACR and evicted them from the diamond fields barely a year after they had begun operations. High Court Judge Charles Hungwe ordered the Zimbabwe Minerals Development Corporation (ZMDC)to stop its mining activities and directed the government to restore African Consolidated Resources' right to mine in the area. 

ACR has still not been able to gain access to the diamond fields. The Zimbabwe Mineral Development Corporation has signed a shady joint venture with a Mauritian off-shore company, Grandwell Holdings. They are operating under the name Mbada Diamonds. Behind it all is a South African scrap metal company, Reclamation, who is understood to have spearheaded the deal. Any diamonds they trade, will be obtained illegally.  Reclamation director, David Kassell said this was inaccurate and refused to comment.   

Outraged by ZMDC’s flagrant disregard of the High Court ruling, Andrew Cranswick CEO of African Consolidated Resources said, “their foreign partners are bringing in experts and top machinery, so the foreign partners will rape it for the foreign interests as opposed to the national interests and that is the tragedy and that has to be stopped.”  

This comes at a time when Zimbabwe faces the possibility of being banned from tr adi ng in rough diamonds.  In July, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme sent a review team to investigate the human rights violations and looting of diamonds from Chiadzwa.  The international watchdog on “conflict diamonds” found gross irregularities and recommended that Zimbabwe be suspended until they comply with minimum standards. It is the first time an state government, and not a rebel army, stands accused of “conflict diamonds.” Amidst heated debate, the KPCS is to meet in Nambia on 2 November to decide Zimbabwe ’s fate.
The government of Zimbabwe until now, has not really disclosed how it conducts its trade in its minerals. It is a very closely guarded secret and that gives room for corruption by senior government officials, by the military bosses who are now in charge of Chiadzwa,” says Farai Maguwu. 
The Minister of Mines seems unconcerned. “We are going it as government alone, without their support. We are not going to stop because they have not supported us,” he said. 

Special Assignment’s programme “ Zimbabwe ’s Blood Diamonds” will be broadcast on Tuesday 27 October at 8.30 pm on SABC 3. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vain-Glory and the People's Welfare

THIS IS HOW I EARN A LIVING! A Youth in Solwezi Town working on a locally made motor to grind maize for the poor in this locality. He is working on a 'make-believe' kind of a machine when he could as well be empowered and do this work at another level. He has taught himself how to repair this brute to make ends meet while his constituency's Member of Parliament lavishes in wealth!

When you look around you in any country in Africa where there’s massive deposits of Natural resources, there is always other types of looting that bypasses our attention; the illegal logging and the local workforce. I have read and was profoundly shocked with the payments and treatments the local workforce is accorded. But in all these our Leaders still stand ‘head tall’ calling such demeaning investments a ‘success!’ One question I would like to ask though; Who Audits the revenues from massive natural rain forests cleared by the investors in the Extractive Industries in our Countries? As you read this, I hope this will lead us into more query to verify what is revealed here...

“Chambishi would have not reopened if ‘mad’ man took over from Levi!” So read the headline on one of the issues on the Post Newspapers in the week. This was supposedly said by the republican president of Zambia, Rupiah Banda.

This is true to some extent. Principally, Chambishi was reopened to answer to the needs of the local people and Zambians from other parts of the country that were employed and were at risk of losing even the little they earned from their ‘jobs’ at the smelter.

Vain Glory
It was a good thing and a matter to be highlighted, even by the Head of State and all would have rallied behind him for applause if the 600 people were really making a living from the supposed jobs they went back to.

Every one of us was proud to hear the President say that with un-minced words that Chambishi copper smelter will employ 600 people. The 600 people have already been employed and they are getting a gross monthly payment of 540,000/- Zambian Kwacha per month inclusive of housing allowance and overtime.

In simple arithmetic, if you multiply 540,000/- by 600 employees times 12 months you find that Non Ferrous Company of Africa (NFCA) from China in collaboration with Zambia Consolidated Copper Mining (ZCCM) is spending 3, 888,000,000 Zambian Kwacha, which is equivalent to USD 845,000 at the current exchange rate.

The current PAYE threshold is 800,000 Zambian Kwacha meaning all the 600 employees are not contributing to the national treasury.

NFCA has capacity to produce 150,000 metric tons of Copper blisters which is worth USD 900,000,000 at the current copper price of USD 6,000 per metric ton. So the wage bill is 0.093% of gross income and the government is ‘bragging’ that we have investors.

The need to Review Policies
It is better for the government to go back and review all the policies governing the extractive industry and come up with a long lasting solution for the benefit of the Zambian People rather than ‘siding’ with the investors.

In a number of instances, we have heard of how much Copper goes out and other developments in home countries of the investors in Zambia and other parts of Africa. Recently, we were faced by a hard reality that there is a Konkola University in India, taking after the name of the Copper mining company in Chingola where the world’s second largest open pit mining is hosted – Nchanga.
This is what our countries in Africa must put up with. This is what Zambia has to put up with.

Zambia is proud of being the country in which the second largest open pit mining is hosted after Chile, while India boasts of a higher learning institution where the present generation and the generations to come with get knowledge and come to enslave Zambians and loot more!

Demand Scrutiny
It is time for Zambians and the sitting government to open floor for the citizenry – those with expertise and patriotic to scrutinise how much the government has received through Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) and tell the nation how much money in tax NCFA have paid so far.

While the world knows Zambia by the production of Copper; it also said by the experts that the copper blister which is processed and exported by the smelter contains 0.4% Gold. Therefore, this means that each ton of copper exported there is 4kg of Gold worth USD 92,000 more than the price of a ton of copper.

All these are matters that need to be attended to without wasting time. If it be true that the investors in the Copper mining are also getting Gold; then it is time for the government to hasten in collaboration with the ministry having oversight on Copper mining issues to look into this matter.

It is very easy for the government to tell us in Africa that ‘these’ are lies but fall short to prove to the citizenry beyond any reasonable doubt that these things that we hear and some we know through discussions with stakeholders, are indeed lies!

While a number of Jaguar and other luxury cars regular Zambian roads, the question is “who really benefits from the loot and at whose expense?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Does Africa Have Real Political Leaders?

IT IS HEAVY! On your way to the Copperbelt the road sides are littered with big sacks of charcoal. The two women tormented with the weight of the charcoal sack and children on their backs have nothing to do but to do this work in the sun. The health and the welfare of the children smouldering in the sun as 'co-partners' in pursuit of a livelihood is not any near to the concerns of the politicians. all they care about is bickering.

The political scene in a number of African Countries does not give hope for any maturity anytime soon, let alone any hope of citizen-cantered political agenda.
I have listened, read and watched politicians in a number of African countries doing nothing but trading insults and belittling their political opponent anytime one politician have a platform to speak. What has amazed me the most is the fact that even Church is not a holy place for politicians in Africa.

Belittling Political Opponents

There is a tendency among our political leaders to play the hide and seek game while in the light of day playing the ‘better-than-though’ game. But in the past few weeks, this game has been over-played in the Zambian political arena.
I was shocked to read on the dailies a week ago in bold letters on front page, where one politician is likened to “a Bag of Mealy Meal!” I do not know how possible this is in a country where most of us know that people are peaceful.
At times when you think of what has taken place in this country in the last four months, it sounds like a big joke. But the truth is; it is true!
When the president was addressing the heads of Churches at the official opening of the 28th General Conference organised by the Council of Churches in Zambia – CCZ, he was quoted saying how he was disappointed by media and other political leaders attempting to drag him into ‘vanity.’

“I am disappointed that both the media and politicians from other parties always ‘drag’ me in the mud of their bad language and name calling!” Is this true or are these birds of the same feather? It only takes someone who is so dumb to see how bad the political situation has turned in Zambia and there might be a reason for citizens to start to get worried – as surveys show already.

It is so embarrassing when our leaders decide to start calling their fellow politicians names using unpalatable language even before children.

Doctors for a Cow and Non For Humans

A few months ago Zambia as a country went through depressive times when nurses went on strike in demand of pay rise and good working conditions. During this time, a number of things were said including pointing accusing fingers to other politicians to have purportedly; started it all “for political gain.” Everything is politics in Africa!

When trying to get the solution on the demands – sincere quest of the nurses to have their work conditions improved some of the politicians decided to take the confusion of the moment to start threatening the nurses of losing their jobs if they never went back to work.

But things took a 360° when the president of the United Republic of Tanzania, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete came for the official opening of the trade fair in Ndola early this year. The government of Zambia rewarded him by giving him a fertilised cow with only a few months to give birth to a calf.

The cow was escorted by a number (some people say 5 Doctors besides security and a track to transport the cow!) of doctors and security guards when in the hospitals the sick went without anyone to attend to them. I wonder whether this is a sign of heartlessness or just being unpatriotic and un-leader like!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I Want to Marry MY Mother!

It is not usual for me to write on issues that 'crazy' and deluded people do for fun but this one took me for a big surprise, took me to the path of anger and confusion. Where are we leading? On the African soil, a number of shocking events and inhuman actions have been reported but I have never heard of anything of this nature. A husband's responsibility to the beautiful bride he intends to spend his life with is to pay them to the full. This is what I read from the Bible and this is what my African traditions tell me. Taking a child to school does not mean that you exploit them sexually nor being taken to school by one's mother and the fact that a father never accomplished his promise to his in-laws entitle a son to have a carnal knowledge of her mother. I am shocked and will live to marvel at human beings' licentiousness and greed. Let’s read this and discuss it...

A Zimbabwean woman and her son have done the unthinkable – they have fallen in love with one another. And now they want to marry since the mom, Betty Mbereko from Mwenezi in Masvingo, is six months pregnant and expecting her son’s child.
Mbereko (40), who was widowed 12 years ago, has been cohabiting with her first child, Farai Mbereko (23). She confirms that she is six months pregnant and that she has decided it is better to “marry” her son because she does not want to marry her late husband’s young brothers, whom she says are coveting her.

Betty stunned a village court last week when she said the affair with her son had begun three years earlier. She said after spending a lot of money sending Farai to school following the death of her husband, she felt she had a right to his money and no other woman was entitled to it. “Look, I strove alone to send my son to school and no one helped me. Now you see that my son is working and you accuse me of doing something wrong. “Let me enjoy the products of my sweat,” she told the village court.
Farai said he was more than prepared to marry his mother and would pay off the ilobola balance his father had left unpaid to his grandparents.

“I know my father died before he finished paying the bride price and I am prepared to pay it off,” he said. “It is better to publicise what is happening because people should know that I am the one who made my mother pregnant. Otherwise they will accuse her of promiscuity.”

But local headman Nathan Muputirwa says: “We cannot allow this to happen in our village, mashura chaiwo aya, (This is a bad omen indeed). In the past they would have to be killed but today we cannot do it because we are afraid of the police.” He warned them to break off their marriage or leave his village. They chose the latter and have left the village for an unknown destination.