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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 19 - 2012
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
May 22, 2012

Introduction

As indicated in previous Bulletin, the House of Assembly and Senate adjourned to 5 June and 12 June 2012, respectively. However, this adjournment did not affect the sitting of Committees of both Houses. Below is a summary of committees that had oral evidence sessions on Monday 21 may 2012.

Portfolio Committee on Mines, Energy and Power Development

Officials from Mbada Diamond Mine and the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) appeared before the Mines Portfolio Committee as a follow up to the Committee’s fact-finding visit to Chiadzwa Mining Fields in March this year. During the Committee’s visit to Chiadzwa in March, Mbada management was not forthcoming with information required by the Committee and hence the decision by Committee to invite the Mbada Board Chairman and ZMDC Chairman.

Regarding the Committee’s observation that among all the companies operating in Chiadzwa, Mbada Diamond Mine was the only one which still had not invested in permanent structures, giving the impression that its operations were temporary, Dr. Robert Mhlanga (Mbada Board Chairman) said this was a deliberate strategic decision to put up makeshift structures. He said government had indicated that all the mines would be allocated land outside the mining fields to build office accommodation and residential homes for their employees as well as business service centres. Hence, the decision not to invest in permanent structures now. He said the place has since been identified and his company would embark on building permanent structures in the last quarter of this year.

On how long his company has projected its lifespan in Chiadzwa, Dr. Mhlanga said he was not in a position give a specific timeframe before exhaustive geological studies have been completed. Dr. Mhlanga informed the Committee that since its inception, Mbada Diamond Mine has produced 11.9 million carats of diamonds and conducted sales worth $592.5 million to-date. He said of this amount, his company remitted a total of $293.5 million to government.

The Committee also heard that diamond companies were facing serious marketing challenges because of US/EU “sanctions” on Zimbabwe. Dr. Mhlanga said despite Zimbabwe being cleared by the Kimberley Process to sell its diamond, the country did not have access to the US and EU markets. He said America alone consumed 40% of world diamonds and since Zimbabwe did not have access to this market; the country has had to rely on buyers from India and China who offer low prices. He said because of “sanctions” Zimbabwe was not in a strong position to leverage the prices of its diamonds to realize more proceeds for the benefit of the nation.

Dr. Mhlanga informed the Committee that his company has done a lot through its corporate social responsibility programme. He said his company has built decent houses for the relocated families as well as giving them food rations quarterly ($500 000) and farming inputs every year ($350 000). Service infrastructure programme, e.g. schools, clinics and road maintenance have so far been supported to the tune of $460 000. The Committee also heard that relocated business people have been compensated to the tune of $900 000. Mbada was also sponsoring a football tournament at a cost of $1 million and supporting a football team in Mutare, Buffalo Rangers to the tune of $100 000 annually.

On the partnership arrangement between ZMDC and the companies mining in Chiadzwa Diamond Fields, ZMDC Chairman, Goodwills Masimirembwa told the Committee that the shareholding was based on a 50% structure except for Marange Diamond Resources which is wholly owned by government through ZMDC. Mr. Masimirembwa said while the 50% shareholding was reflected at Board level and in terms of dividends, the management was entirely left to the investor. This therefore, means that government was not represented at management level in Mbada Diamond Mine, DMC and Anjin Mine. However, Mr. Masimirembwa was quick to allay the fears of Committee Members and said ZMDC has resolved that in future concessions, the agreement would be amended to ensure that government was represented also at management level.

Portfolio Committee on Higher and Tertiary Education

The Committee received oral evidence from the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) on challenges students were facing in tertiary institutions in the country. The students representatives informed the committee that the biggest challenge students were facing was lack of adequate government funding to the education sector. The scrapping off of students loans and grants by government have left students exposed to economic and social problems such as inability to pay their tuition fees and accommodation as well as money to buy text books, food and clothes. ZINASU representatives also decried the dilapidated infrastructure in most tertiary institutions. They also pointed out over-crowding in most of the colleges which has resulted in a scramble for little available resources. For instance, ZINASU told the Committee that the current student population at the University of Zimbabwe was 16 000 yet the institution only had 700 computers for use by students. They said in most colleges the computer-student ratio was on average 1:100, a situation which they said was untenable for their research studies.

ZINASU also bemoaned lack of academic freedom in tertiary institutions. They alleged that security details were always seen roaming the campuses, ostensibly to instill fear in students so that they remained docile.

The students were also against exam structure whereby the course work constituted 60% of the final mark. They said this system was open to abuse and fraud, as some students could easily outsource their coursework.

Activities of other Committees scheduled to receive oral evidence this week, will be reported in our next Bulletin.

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