Zimbabwe today banned raw granite exports and effected a ban on all new mining contracts, a move likely to strangle the exploitation of communities for the rock.
It is a welcome move by government, and it is our hope that the SI127 will be followed to the letter.
The promulgation of the statutory instrument comes at a time communities are suffering from massive land degradation, resulting from heavy-duty machinery cutting through mountains.
About 60 trucks leave Mutoko’s granite rich mountains daily, as sacred mountains face extinction, while communities grapple with the after-effects of this perilous plunder.
The state has been working in cahoots with foreign companies that extract granite for decades, while villagers remain muzzled and unable to speak out.
A visit to Mutoko revealed desperation on the faces of villagers who watch dozens of trucks leave daily after siphoning the rock with great potential to transform their livelihoods.
Paralegals working in the area have received threats for speaking out on the exploitation of resources, while some have been gagged to achieve a media blackout.
What was nauseating is that some village heads were working with miners, receiving kickbacks for pushing for the removal of villagers from areas designated for mining companies.
Last year an 82-year-old man fainted after he was told that his home would be demolished to pave way for the expansion of a Chinese company’s granite polishing plant.
He was given $2500, barely enough to build a decent home or compensate for crops.
As companies incessantly looted granite, school children persistently endured the tremors that come with heavy cutting and drilling of the rock.
At Nyamakopa primary school, lessons are constantly disrupted by the noise coming from nearby mountains.
Black granite is thus a curse for the community, which has nothing to show for the rich endowments.
The only landmark in Mutoko is a bus stop made from polished black granite, with the inscription Headman Nyamakopa.
According to villagers, this is the only meaningful symbol of their wealth in Mutoko, while other countries enjoy the riches of their land.
Zimbabwean granite has been famously used on the façade of the Royal Library in Copenhagen, Denmark, built in 1999. A researcher found that the Italian company that sold the stone earned US$9.12m, while Mutoko Rural District Council earned just US$45,000 in tax royalties.
In 2018, Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube imposed a tax on unpolished granite exports, forcing some of the miners to set up cutting centers in Mutoko, which accounts for 75% of Zim granite output. However, community groups say locals are still excluded from earnings.
Most of Zimbabwe’s granite is sold to Italy, China, Belgium, and Spain, according to trade data.
While exporters line their pockets, leaving a trail of destruction as heavy machinery cuts through mountains, the communities are left pauperised.
A report entitled “From Mountains of Hope to Anthills of Despair: Assessment of Human Rights Risks in the Extraction and Production of Natural Stone in Zimbabwe”, by mining law experts James Tsabora and Darlington Chidarara, states that granite extraction requires huge tracts of land, resulting in the disruption of livelihoods of local communities.
The report notes that the natural stone industry, which includes the granite mining sector, has grown rapidly in the past three decades to become a key economic sector in Zimbabwe. It is constituted mainly by quarrying or extraction companies.
There is very little processing in the country.
The industry was initially dominated by European-based companies from Italy, Spain and other nations, but in the last 10 years, Chinese companies have also joined the looting bandwagon.
The report is just a tip of the iceberg of resource exploitation by oligarchs and foreign entities, mainly the Chinese.
Zimbabwe is losing billions every year to illicit mineral flows, while communities are left scarred and some on the verge of displacement.
The Statutory Instrument is therefore a win for the previously tormented community, as government has made it mandatory for companies to ensure value-addition.
It is our hope that government will give communities a piece of the pie.