We received with utmost dismay news that the country’s largest ferrochrome producer, Zimasco may have pulled the wool over our eyes when it surrendered depleted chrome claims to the Government.
Sometime in 2015, the Government ordered Zimasco and ZimAlloys to cede part of their claims for redistribution to new, indigenous investors. The order was informed by the realisation that the two companies held a staggering 80 percent of the country’s chrome reserves and were largely just sitting on them.
Going by Ministry of Mines and Mining Development data that Zimbabwe holds more than 950 million tonnes of chrome reserves — the second largest on the globe — it meant that Zimasco and ZimAlloys held 760 million tonnes. This constitutes a lifetime of mining if one considers that in 2014, the country produced 260 000 tonnes of high-carbon ferrochrome, 2,3 percent of global output.
The Government therefore took the decision, in October 2015, to order the two firms to hand over part of their claims. Actually, the order on chrome came nine years after the Government had issued a similar directive to Zimplats to release ground with 36 million ounces worth of platinum. There was therefore nothing strange about the directive on Zimasco and ZimAlloys.
With the bulk of the chrome deposits in the hands of a minority, hundreds of locals aspiring to invest in activities to mine the metal had no chance of doing so.
Midlands Minister of State Cde Jason Machaya made the shocking disclosure, in these pages on Thursday last week and restated the possible giant fraud by Zimasco in the latest edition of our sister paper, Sunday News.
“For mining claims that have been 100 percent condemned we are going to refer them back to the Ministry (of Mines and Mining Development) so that the ministry will then engage Zimasco,” he said.
“Where we are saying we are not comfortable with these claims which are not accessible or have been completely been worked out, we will return them to Zimasco.”
Minister Machaya said of the 305 claims in the Midlands, about 80 percent had been worked on while 20 percent had been exhausted.
We are extremely saddened by this development which if indeed it happened, represents much disrespect for the people of Zimbabwe and their Government, an insult on their collective intelligence which must not be tolerated.
It must go without saying that when the orders were issued to Zimasco and ZimAlloys, the Government wanted genuine chrome claims to be handed over but it has turned out that indeed land was surrendered last year but it cannot satisfy the description of being chrome claims when they don’t have any chrome left in them.
Both companies must understand that the government cannot allow a few companies or individuals dominating the economy. This is why the Government adopted the indigenisation and economic empowerment drive a few years ago. Thus this idea of playing hide and seek with authorities is actually an impossible game which no one wants to be played.
The Independence we are celebrating today will ring hollow if the economy remains in the hands of a few when the majority continue to wallow in poverty. Independence must be meaningful, not a mere political buzzword. The political Independence that the people of Zimbabwe attained on April 18, 1980, and whose 37th anniversary we are marking today must come along with tangible economic independence for our people.
Much of it has already been achieved with respect to ownership of agricultural land where up to 300 000 blacks are now proud owners of the resource which they are utilising very well. Mining is just as important as agriculture and ownership of chrome claims must be democratised as well.
We demand a thoroughgoing investigation into this to establish if indeed it is true that Zimasco sold everyone a dummy.
“We sent a team of surveyors on the ground to assess the 305 claims that were allocated to Midlands by the Mines and Mining Development Ministry after Zimasco ceded 50 percent of its claims to Government. We discovered that 80 percent of the claims were inaccessible, worked on or exhausted. We are returning the claims back to the responsible ministry so that they engage Zimasco at that level,” Minister Machaya was quoted in Sunday News as saying.
We are hopeful that the investigation would be done quickly for everyone to understand whether indeed suspicions of a fraud are true or not.