Mugabe Steals US$800 000 From Struggling Small Scale Miners

Earlier this year, small-scale miners such as these ones mining diamonds in Marange, had to cough up US$20 000 each to be given licences so that they would not be harassed by the police as they panned and dug for gold and diamonds. Now, all those licences have been rescinded and they are not getting a penny of their money back. Politicians who had also paid the money to get claims they could speculate with are livid. And they are now after the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines, a former colleague of Gideon Gono at the Reserve Bank.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 22 November 2009

The government of Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai has stolen US$800 000 collected as fees from struggling small-scale miners in Zimbabwe, who had to cough it up in order to be given "licences" to continue or commence their backbreaking activities.

Instead of giving them the licences, however, the government has simply turned around and "nullified" all licences and applications from the miners.On top of that, there is no returning the money. The small-scale Zimbabwean miners will not get a penny of it back.

In the firing line is the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines, who is now being hung out to dry by the State media, even though he is one of theirs. The PermSec, Thankful Musukutwa "has issued a directive that all claims registration must cease with immediate effect and further to that he has also directed that all peggers must forfeit peggers' licences and that have since been suspended from carrying out prospecting actvities."

But, as everyone in Zimbabwe knows, there was huge patronage in the way in which the licences were being dished out before this PermSec came on the seen earlier this year.

Just as Ministers and politicians took stalls at lucrative flea markets in Harare, so they did with the mining licences, which was the whole object of adopting the policy of licensing "small-scale miners" in the first place: so that politicians could get licences to pieces of land that they intended to sell on for a massive profit, if not exploit them themselves."

The problem is that there are a lot of genuine people, struggling to make a living, who have been looking at the miners' licenses as the source of their livelihoods. The government has failed to attract any meaningful domestic and foreign investment. Which means there are no jobs for our 90% unemployed people.

Considering that the miner's had to pay US$20 000 each, there are certainly heartbreaking stories about people who sold everything they had, including all the gold and diamonds they may have had, in order to buy this licence, fully intending to start work n earnest and rebuild their lives.

This is not going to happen.

Some of the Ministers and politicians who had applied for the licences are now using their control of the state media to rubbish the Permanent Secretary in the ministry. They claim he wants several luxury cars as part of his perks in the job, ignoring the Mining Affairs Board, calling in his former colleagues from the Reserve Bank to come and work in the Ministry "and demanding hefty packages such as luxury vehicles and fuel allowances.."

He is in the process of hiring 50 more staff members for his ministry, it is also alleged.

In a contradictory and rather arrogant-sounding response to the allegations, the Permanent Secretary failed to shed more light on this issue, saying:

"There us a reason why registration ceased. As for the other allegations you have raised, I will not comment until I know your source from the ministry because I need to know what I am fighting against. And, as for the vehicles that I allegedly demanding, you must understand that there are contractual obligations and why should someone be privy to my contractual obligations. I run this ministry and I know it has no money and I do not need ministry cars. I have my own."

Meantime, the small-scale miners are none the wiser, nor are any of us, for that matter.

What, I wonder, has that US$800 000 been used for? It certainly was not budgeted for, not in the original budget nor in the mid-term Fiscal Policy Review presented in June by Tendai Biti.

So, what happened to it?


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