Mining companies suffer from colonial mindset

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circa 1900: South African statesman Cecil John Rhodes (1853 - 1902). (Photo by W. & D. Downey/Getty Images)

FOR the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-ASSET) programme to achieve success one of the key results that must be attained is mineral beneficiation.
However, the big mining companies in this country are refusing to undertake beneficiation of the minerals they are mining.
It is very painful for Zimbabweans to see on a daily basis huge lorry after huge lorry carrying out of the country our raw minerals to South Africa to be processed there, while at the same time creating jobs in that country.
Meanwhile many young Zimbabweans spend the day loitering in the sun unemployed.
We argue in this article that while the big mining companies in this country recognise the government of the ZANU PF, however when it comes to mineral beneficiation they behave as if this country is still run by the British South Africa Company (BSAC) which once ruled this country.
When Zimbabwe was occupied and subsequently colonised by the British in 1890, the government that came to power in the country was that of a company – the BSAC.
This company had been created by Cecil John Rhodes mostly to exploit the mineral riches of Zimbabwe.
Therefore for all intends and purposes one can say the BSAC was a giant mining company.
The BSAC considered Zimbabwe a giant mine and so legislation favoured mining and mining companies.
“The expectation of the company (the British South Africa Company and settlers in 1890s was that Rhodesia’s future would be based on the mining industry (and) so this sector was favoured by legislation and other benefits at the expense of the rest of the community…” – M Elaine Lee.
There were very close links that existed between the mining companies and the BSAC.
What was also interesting to note was that because the BSAC had been founded in South Africa (although registered in London), it had strong ties with the South African mining industry.
After all, Rhodes’ mining companies that had given rise to the founding of the BSAC – De beers consolidated Ltd, the monopoly diamond mining company, and Goldfields – the gold mining company were both based in South Africa.
And so because of the very close links between the mining companies in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and the BSAC, the BSAC who were the government in Zimbabwe encouraged all these mining companies in the country to consider, the South African mining industry as their ‘MECCA’ where they sent all their raw materials for processing.
Yes, the South African mining industry was made to operate as if it was the ‘mother’ mining industry of all Zimbabwean mining industries, putting the country at a very big disadvantage.
All the processing plants for Zimbabwe minerals were sited in South Africa etc.
Zimbabwe is paying pretty dearly for this today.
After 22 years of BSAC rule in Rhodesia, politics reared its usual ugly head.
This time for a good reason.
Some of the British settlers decided to end company rule and bring about ordinary ‘civilian’ rule.
This demand came, especially from unionised farmers who had less rights of land than the mining companies.
By the way, “all ground (in the country) was open to prospecting.
“The only areas restricted from pegging were land within 200 yards of any inhabited house.”
No wonder, “resentment was felt against the company (by farmers).
“Hostility far greater than would otherwise have existed between the two groups was created.”
And so there was demand for an end to company rule.
This led to the political fights of 1922 where white farmers and others wanted responsible government.
But the BSAC and mining companies instead pushed for a Union – federation with South Africa where their interests lay.
“The case for Union (federation with South Africa) was fought vigorously in 1922, not only did mining companies and employers generally prefer this course, but the British South Africa Company stood to gain a more satisfactory financial settlement with the South African government.
“The support attracted to the Rhodesian Unionist Association was principally from representatives of the mining companies and other international capitalist groups .”
A referendum to decide one way or the other was held in 1922.
“In 1923 Southern Rhodesia gained responsible government.”
The BSAC and the mining companies lost the referendum.
Company rule came to an end.
However, despite this the mining companies using their financial muscle continued to behave as if the BSAC was still in power.
They kept their relations with South African mining companies which were heavily in favour of South Africa.
All the minerals they mined were beneficiated in South Africa.
This is the sad situation which is prevailing right now.
Today, mining interests in South Africa and Zimbabwe are fighting tooth and nail to make sure the situation that prevailed under the BSAC where our minerals were siphoned to South Africa while we got peanuts is maintained.
All sorts of false reasons are being advanced for not setting up plants to beneficiate our minerals.
Government must be really resolute on this one.
The country cannot continue to suffer because of mining companies who still think the BSAC is in power.
Beneficiation must take place now.

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