Leonard Ncube in Hwange
THE Hwange community has expressed concern over lack of corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects by mining companies operating in the district which are accused of exploiting resources and not ploughing back to the community for development.
A cross section of the community who attended a meeting convened at Edmund Davis Hall in Hwange on Tuesday afternoon to talk about plans to come up with a Provincial Development Plan said Hwange and Matabeleland North as a whole are some of the poorest in the country despite the vast natural resources.
Hwange is endowed with vast coal deposits and wildlife that attracts tourists, also a major economic activity in the district.
The community is concerned that Hwange has no district hospital and boarding school except for the Catholic Church run Marist Brothers Secondary in Dete despite having more than 10 coal mining companies and scores of tourism players operating in the district.
Those who spoke at the meeting said companies should differentiate between a donation and CSR as many give handouts and claim to be doing developmental work for the community.
They said CSR should not be an option and implored companies to adopt some deserving children and offer bursaries and scholarships for a better future for the community, among other CSR work.
Top on the list of CSR projects wanted by the community is prevention of pollution of water sources, rehabilitation of land and roads that, according to members of the community, were destroyed by coal mining companies.
The meeting was called following numerous concerns raised by community members that the district and province are endowed with natural resources yet people are not benefitting.
The community wants the local industry to play a part in the country’s quest for achieving Vision 2030.
Participants said companies are given special grants by the President but they are not interested in helping communities so as to improve livelihoods.
They commended Hwange Colliery Company for its CSR programmes while a majority of mining companies were not doing anything for the community.
Hwange Colliery acting general manager Dr Charles Zinyemba said the company had built a number of schools and now it is the turn for other companies to chip in.
Makomo Resources general manager Mr Kuda Nyabonda bemoaned lack of coordination.
“Let’s agree the level of development expected in the community because efforts are not coordinated and no one is monitoring.
“Companies might be doing something and as a district we should come up with a plan and have a coordinating office where certain projects should be prioritised and coordinated. Communities also need to be educated because they get donations and sell instead of using that for development,” he said.
Matabeleland North Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Richard Moyo who was guest speaker did not mince his words imploring companies to rehabilitate the roads they have destroyed.
He challenged the companies to consider giving tenders to local suppliers of services and also to employ locals.
“We should establish a community share ownership scheme for the district where all these issues should be attended to. What is most worrying are the roads, all companies here you are aware that where you operate there are no more roads. Let’s do those roads now. All areas need a retention from the miners operating there and can we do that, now,” said Minister Moyo.
He said companies should award tenders such as supply of food and other services to locals especially youths and women who also need employment prioritisation ahead of those from other provinces.
The Minister said the mining industry is a critical sector especially as Government envisages a US$12 billion industry by 2023 hence the community should not be left behind.
Among the contributors were Hwange Local Board chief executive Mr Ndumiso Mdlalose who said it’s high time business start ploughing back to the community especially on the roads whose state is pathetic.
His counterpart at Hwange Rural District Council Mr Phindile Ncube said local authorities make it mandatory that small downstream industries plough back to the community.
Matabeleland North Environmental Management Agency (EMA) provincial manager Mrs Chipo Mpofu-Zuze said while the provincial development plan is a “dashboard” for guiding activities, people should use the power of environmental impact assessments to monitor activities of companies.
A Hwange resident Mr Petersen Ncube urged companies to start prioritising local businesses in the supply chain so as to increase business activity and money circulating in [email protected]