Chiefs fret over Zimplats’ slow pace

Moses Matenga

CHEGUTU- Traditional leaders, whose communities were meant to benefit from the Zimplats Chegutu-Mhondoro-Ngezi-Zvimba community share ownership scheme, have expressed concern over the 12-year delay by the platinum giant to cede 10% shareholding.

Under the deal superintended by the late former president Robert Mugabe and supervised by former indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere, communities in the Mhondoro-Ngezi, Zvimba and Chegutu, among others, were set to get 10% shareholding, but 12 years on, the deal remains in limbo.

The platinum miners registered a Deed of Trust incorporating 12 chiefs from Mashonaland West province, representing the communities.

Under the scheme, in addition  to the 10% shareholding, it was supposed to give US$10 million to the local communities, which it honoured.

What remains is the 10% shareholding. The matter is now before the courts.

Zimplats is owned by South Africa’s Impala Platinum and under the deal, they were legally mandated to cede shares to benefit communities.

While the communities are grateful for the schools and health facilities constructed by Zimplats, they still await the full implementation  of the community share ownership scheme.

A recent investigation by Business Times working in collaboration with Information for Development Trust (IDT), a non-profit organisation that supports journalists in Zimbabwe and in the region to investigate issues of corruption in the public sector and bad governance, revealed that Zimplats is seeking to reverse the legally binding arrangement, opening itself up for litigation.

Instead of fulfilling its 2011 obligation, Zimplats this year offered the chiefs a new deal in which the traditional  leaders, on behalf of the communities, get 5% shares in companies formed by Zimplats.

The chiefs received 5% share certificates early this year from the platinum miners  at a meeting at Zimplats Mineral Concentrator Plant in Turf, Mhondoro-Ngezi.

However, conversations with several chiefs showed that the traditional leaders were oblivious of how their communities would  benefit from the new deal.

Chiefs, who spoke to Business Times, said Zimplats seemed to have changed goal posts.

Chief Nyika said: “Right now, this trust had not yet started functioning well but we are hopeful and optimistic that we will work together with the councils.

“As chiefs, we present a proposal to the council and they identify if something needs to be attended”.

He said the Community Ownership Trust had helped a lot of schools – some with electricity, boreholes and others have had classrooms built for them.

“They are clinics in the Gweshe area, which were built by Zimplats and this is fully equipped,” Chief Nyika said.

“…In addition, with the disasters that took place in the community, the Community Share Ownership Trust has helped the community, especially in schools.”

Another traditional leader, Chief Benhura, also admitted that the deal has had “a shaky start and that over a decade later, it’s still trying to find its feet”.

“The community ownership trust had almost collapsed but last year we managed to revive it.

“We did not have a chief executive officer but now we have our CEO, who works very hard. Right now the machines that had stopped working have been fixed and our office has been revamped again. “We bought three tipper trucks that have already been hired under contract by other companies and we are anticipating two haulage trucks, a 30 tonne and a 32 tonne.

“We wanted to first put together our equipment and machinery that will generate money that will enable us to help the community,” he said.

Chief Benhura said  the 12 chiefs from Mhondoro, Chegutu and Zvimba were all directors of this trust.

“As the board of trustees, we are committed to show the community that we are here to help them. We have fun that we have to facilitate recreation of schools and other things but our priority is schools and health sectors that’s where our money will go towards although it is little but with time we will have more,” he said.

Some of the Chiefs, it emerged, were yet to visit the new companies, which they were promised by Zimplats under the new agreement.

The chiefs are yet to get details about the companies and a copy of the deal. They only know what they have been told by Zimplats officials.

Separate briefings with Business Times about a meeting held on June 28 in Chegutu, sources said Zimplats officials explained the new deal to the chiefs, stating that the company would allocate 5% shareholding. They described the deal as a “good development model for the province”.

Meanwhile, Chegutu Council chairperson Tatenda Gwinji last year dragged Zimplats to court seeking an order to have Zimplats meet its side of the deal.

While the court processes are ongoing, he has raised questions on why the platinum miners have brought in a new deal.

Gwinji says as a community leader, whose area of jurisdiction as councillor and chairperson of Chegutu Rural District Council, should also be covered by the deal.

“They (chiefs) are being misled by the promise of questionable businesses Zimplats is promising to start in the name of empowerment on behalf of communities but which businesses Zimplats will own,” he said.

This story was commissioned by Information for Development Trust (IDT) and published by BusinessTimes

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