The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) has added its voice in calling for the amendment of the mines legislation saying the current bill disregards property rights and customary traditions.
In its wide ranging policy recommendations from its 2019 annual report, the NPRC regards mining as a source of conflict due to legislative gaps.
The government has been saying it is finalizing the Mines and Minerals bill, under amendment since 2013.
However, the NPRC said the eruption of conflicts or disputes related to mining over forced relocation without compensation, exhumations without due regard to customs and tradition were noted in the reporting year.
It noted that “in all the provinces that natural resource disputes continue to cause conflicts,” with these mining disputes prevalent because the legal principle law “takes precedence over custom.”
“The Mines and Minerals Act [Chapter 21:05] is the authority used in the issuance of mining licenses and or permits and it was a finding of the Commission that it has little or no regard for property rights and customary traditions.
“There are forced exhumations, reburials and relocations of individuals and communities that are being occasioned by the issuance of mining licensees for claims that are sitting on homesteads, graveyards, sacred sites and agricultural lands,” read part of the report.
“It was also a principal finding of the Commission that because of corruption or other reasons some public officials abused their authority through double issuing of offer letters over one piece of land to different households thus laying fertile ground for conflicts or disputes.”
The Commission said it was faulty that current mining legislation fails to protect communities as licensed miners get precedence over property rights and customary practices. Public officials were also fingered as complicit, acquiescing to political pressure to abdicate discharge of constitutional obligations.
Other conflicts relate to eruption of violence emanating from polarization, with even law enforcement agents self-censoring thus incentivizing impunity said NPRC.
NPRC called for amendments ‘to entrench and recognize property rights and custom so that beneficiaries of mining claims are able to engage local leadership and work mutually on cultural rites’.
“Miners destroy properties and exhume graves without having regard to the needs and customs of the community, triggering conflicts in the process.
“Amendment of the Mines and Minerals Act to include a clause which provides for compensation to a party affected by the issuance of a mining licence or permit for violation of their proprietary rights,” said NPRC.
Overall, NPRC said it received only sixteen complaints in the reporting period on various issues including, of course mining disputes, partisan distribution of resources and political victimization among others.
The Commission said most conflicts are best solved at local level as some conflicts are regional pointing to ‘the southern region (Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North, Bulawayo and Midlands) there is widespread unhappiness over delays in dealing conclusively with Gukurahundi so that people find closure.’
It said Provincial Peace Committees are key in resolving conflicts, with plans afoot to cascade this architecture to district levels or lower, in spite of administrative and programmatic and revolved around inadequate budget support and political polarization.
“An analysis of complaints received reveals that the majority of conflicts revolve around issues of unfair distribution of resources, land disputes, mining disputes, and partisan distribution of food aid, political victimization, and chieftainship wrangles.
“Some lessons for peace building, derived from nationwide outreach programs reveal that each province has unique conflict issues that will require tailor made response initiatives to respond to and deal with the conflicts.
“Of notable concern is the fact that women, children and persons with disabilities were not spared in the conflicts,” said.
NPRC promotes a positive and legal environment for conflict prevention at national and subnational levels to sustain peace, healing and reconciliation. It is structured along thematic areas and aims to address legacies of violence, receive and investigate complaints from members of the public.