Centre for Natural Resource Governance
Strengthening the capacities of communities to resist destructive mining
Zimbabwe is a country rich in natural resources, including gold, platinum, chrome, coal and diamonds. However what appears to be a blessing of precious resources has in reality proven to be a curse for the majority of people living in surrounding communities. Corruption involving the ruling elites and mining corporations is a defining characteristic of mining in Zimbabwe, with the positive impacts felt far away from mine sites whilst surrounding communities are left poorer and worse off than those with no mineral wealth at all. Mining has led to land grabbing, water grabbing, pollution and displacement and the exploitation of mine workers is systematic and widespread. Despite the mining industry generating billions of dollars in diamonds, many of Zimbabwe’s people remain in poverty.
The Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) is building a movement throughout Zimbabwe by bringing together affected communities and increasing their capacity to conduct direct non-violent action in resistance to destructive mining. CNRG also works to promote mining alternatives with a major focus on promoting food security in communities affected by mining, with the belief that alternative livelihood options will also liberate communities to resist destructive mining. They continually advocate for greater transparency and regulation in the mining sector, including effective taxation so that wealth generated by mining can become a stable source of financing for development of the entire country.
One of the communities empowered by CNRG is Hwange, situated about 700km west of Harare. For five years, the Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL), Zimbabwe’s largest coal mining company, has failed to pay its workers salaries owed to them or the benefits entitled to widows of its workers. A group of women, including female workers, spouses and widows joined together in 2013 to demand salaries be paid. However they were met with violence and assault by security forces, which forced them to cease attempts at demonstrating. In December 2014 CNRG began working with the women in Hwange, conducting capacity building workshops to make a case for women’s unpaid labour as well as sharing non-violent strategies for direct action. CNRG facilitated exchange visits between the women of Hwange and women from other mining-affected communities and ensured their participation in feminist training schools organised by WoMIN regional alliance. Thus a new and vibrant movement was born in Hwange.
HCCL still has not paid its current and former workers their outstanding dues and has reneged on its promise to settle the arrears in instalments multiple times. Workers today are owed upwards of $5,000 each. In January 2018 a group of Hwange women pitched a tent at the entrance to the HCCL offices, where they remain camped until the company pays what it owes to their families. HCCL tried to engage the police to disperse the women, but the police refused, citing the women’s right to peaceful protest. They also took the case to court, who again refused to act, ruling the demonstration legal and allowing it to continue. CNRG continues to support the women in their protest, until they and other workers are paid the salaries owed to them.
CNRG is standing up to corruption in Zimbabwe and standing in solidarity with mining communities and mine workers. They are a powerful voice against pervasive inequality, asking why a country that has generated over $15 billion from diamond mining alone, remains in such abject poverty.