COMMUNITY Share Ownerships Trusts (CSOTs) launched in 2012 by President Mugabe in terms of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act which requires foreign firms to cede part of their stake to locals to empower communities was expected to provide the right tonic for rural development and enforce corporate social responsibility.
Following the enactment of the law, the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB) was constituted and given the mandate to administer and ensure adherence by foreign companies with the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act.
The thrust, according to NIEEB’s CSOTs compliance manager, Mr Sibanengi Mahobele was to enforce corporate social responsibility that a number of firms were not serious about or virtually neglecting as well as release pressure on the Central Government in as far as funding some basic rural development programmes in the country’s communities was concerned.
“The idea was to empower the country’s indigenous communities where the resources were being extracted. It was also a way of enforcing corporate social responsibility that the firms were not serious about thereby bringing community development with the locals choosing what programmes to prioritise,” said Mr Mahobele.
However, locating the CSOTs in the reconstruction of the rural infrastructure of the country’s Cyclone Dineo-ravaged communities remain not only painful but quite difficult as these entities are dogged by a number of technical glitches that have seen a number of them failing to take off hence a continued reliance on Central Government for funding.
In light of that Mr Mahobele said although CSOTs were mandated to respond to the socio-economic needs of their respective communities, they could only be seen doing so subject to availability of funds.
“CSOTs are mandated to respond to or attend to the socio-economic needs of their respective communities. Should the need arise for them to assist in the case of natural disasters such as floods, they are expected to assist subject to availability of resources,” he said.
Although the cyclone downgraded into a tropical depression on entering the country, it left a trail of destruction in the country’s rural communities with the Southern region’s Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South as well as Midlands Provinces being the worst affected.
A lot of basic infrastructure was damaged and the cost is still being collated. Schools, bridges, roads, dams, clinics, community halls and homes were affected while lives were lost. The amount of damage that various Government ministries suffered in various areas is still being quantified financially but is envisaged to run into several millions of dollars.
Like so many natural disasters, the cyclone’s coming was not prepared for in advance hence no contingent measure was put in place to avert it. It therefore undoubtedly left the country poorer with rural communities counting their losses more than their urban counterparts that were less affected.
But one fact is there for all to see, clear and bold. The Government has limited resources and it looks like it will take more time for the damaged infrastructure to be put together again especially given the fact that there are still a number of bridges that suffered the same fate under Cyclone Eline almost two decades ago that have remained like that — not repaired.
As has been the case prior, priority by the Central Government has been given to national projects and infrastructure leaving rural areas that are most affected unattended and the feeling among the rural communities is that of neglect.
Insiza district in Matabeleland South province is one the affected areas where Insiza South House of Assembly Member Cde Malachi Nkomo said it was those small things such as where domestic animals water, where villagers get water for gardens, where children cross to schools and where scotch carts could safely navigate their way that count in the rural communities and make life tick.
He lamented the lack of CSOTs in the constituency saying had there been one, they were going to ensure the proceeds were channelled towards revival of the damaged infrastructure for the communities and not wait for the Government.
“We are one of the most affected districts, our roads, bridges, dams and schools were affected. We however, do not have a CSOT in the district but had there been one, we were going to channel what available resources to the reconstruction of the damaged infrastructure.
“The Gwanda CSOT however, chipped in and helped J Z High School in my constituency in drilling a borehole after their pump was swept away by the floods. They drilled the borehole for a fee though,” said Cde Nkomo.
In Mberengwa in the Midlands Province a number of basic community infrastructure has been affected too and nothing serious is in the pipeline to ensure the CSOTs come to the party although the communities are crying out for help.
Mberengwa CSOT Acting Administrator Mr Julius Mashavakure said the CSOT does not have enough financial muscle to start reconstructing the damaged infrastructure as some of the companies that pledged support were now dodging responsibility.
He said roads were in a terrible state, bridges were swept away while some collapsed due to excessive volumes of water, thereby leaving the rural communities poorer as they have to walk long distances to get to the tarred roads for transport.
“Roads such as the Buchwa-Rutenga are in a terrible state. Dams collapsed and bridges were swept away while some school toilets were also affected. But there is nothing much at the moment in our coffers as a CSOT.
“I will, however, draw the attention of the board to the need for us to see to it that we prioritise some of the small projects such as toilets at schools. We only have Mimosa and we have so far received less than $1 million from the mining giant. We are still to understand the technicalities with Murowa Diamond but in terms of capacity I wouldn’t say we are fine. We are not, we do not have the resources and those that pledged did not fulfil their promises. So in as much as we may want to reconstruct, we do not have the resources,” said Mr Mashavakure.
Chief Mtshane Khumalo who is one of the Trustees of the Bubi CSOT in Matabeleland North Province said a lot needed to be done to make sure the companies meet the pledges they made. He said although the floods did not do much harm in Bubi District he was worried with the low level of compliance by the mining firms, most of which were making a lot of profit in the district that was endowed with gold reserves.
“We were not so much affected by the floods and we cannot talk of reconstruction, but as a CSOT we have been engaged with acquiring furniture for some of the schools, doing projects for the vulnerable and disabled people as well as improving other education infrastructure.
“By so doing we are no longer very reliant on the Central Government to do things for us as we always sit down as a community and decide what project to work on. The challenge that we have is that companies have not been coming out with the pledges that they committed themselves to. Just one company has supported us so far despite the district having more mines than any other district in Matabeleland North Province. So for us the issue is not about the floods but about the latitude that we now have in determining our development pace and our community priorities,” said Chief Mtshane Khumalo.
He said something needed to be done to make sure the companies take pride in partaking in the development of the communities from where they were getting resources as part of corporate social responsibility.
Revelations from NIEEB are that only 26 out of the 61 registered Community Share Ownership Trusts (CSOTs) in the country are functional and $40 million out of the pledged $128,506 million having been disbursed so far.
The majority of the trusts however, failed to kick off amid allegations of reluctance to adhere to the Act by some companies whose promises to release money and capitalise the CSOTs remain a pipe dream, making the location of these entities in the reconstruction discourse difficult. Without them, rural communities will have to wait longer and in suffering for the Central Government to release money to reconstruct the damaged infrastructure.