No one can deny that Zimbabwe is one of the most richly endowed places on this planet.
Highly favoured by God Almighty with nearly 40 identified minerals – including gold, platinum, diamonds, chrome, coal, and so much more – the country has all the potential to be a global economic powerhouse, even giving Western nations a run for their money.
With the most recent discovery of vast deposits of lithium – currently the darling of the world, due to its importance in the production of rechargeable batteries (essential in the new craze in electric cars, and mobile phones) – there should be nothing to stop Zimbabwe’s phenomenal rise on the global stage.
Furthermore, most encouraging news is coming out of the exploration of natural gas and petroleum in the Muzarabani area – with reports optimistic of magnificent reserves sitting under our country, just waiting to be exploited – estimated at 1.2 billion barrels of oil, and 845 million barrels of conventional gas condensate.
Nonetheless, what does this all mean for the ordinary people of Zimbabwe?
Is there any cause for celebration?
For now, permit me to respond by more questions.
When was the last time that the ordinary people of the land between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers actually directly benefit from the amazing blessings given them by the Almighty?
In what way did the plentiful gold reserves uplift and prosper the majority of this country since 1890 – since that was the main reason for colonial conquest and occupation by Cecil John Rhodes, after a trail of other Arab and European powers who had tried their best to lay their hands on this treasure?
Did this not simply line the pockets of the conquerors – whilst the indigenous people of the land were forced to be content with the wages, and simple benefits of working in these mines?
After the protracted liberation struggle, and subsequent independence in 1980 – in what way did the situation change for the citizenry?
In spite of the discovery and exploitation of numerous more minerals – such as platinum and diamonds – did the ordinary people of Zimbabwe suddenly become well-off, living a life worthy of rich endowments?
I remember a few years ago, when my mother visited some relatives – and, when she told those present who were not too familiar with her that she was from Kwekwe, they naturally inquired if she had any gold!
Of course, as Kwekwe is known as the ‘City of Gold’ – being home to several legendary companies mining the precious metal, such as Globe and Phoenix and Gaika – it would be understandable for local residents to somehow directly benefit from this resource.
However, it may come as a huge shock to many that none of us in my family have neither seen or held even a tiny gold nugget – let alone, enjoying the wealth from the decades of our city trading in this yellow stone.
I am sure that we are not the only ones – and, will not be the last ones!
How many residing in the Chiadzwa (Marange) vicinity have actually ever laid their eyes on even a small diamond rock?
I will not even bother going into asking whether they became wealthier, and rescued from their life of poverty, after the discovery of the gem some 15 years ago.
In fact, from the estimated US$25 billion earned from the sale of their own resources since 2005 – is there anything to show for these immense riches in the villagers’ own homes and bank accounts?
In fact, were they not forcibly displaced from their ancestral land, in typical colonial fashion, and dumped in an area lacking the most basic of necessities for normal human habitation and existence?
As it turns out, it is reported that a paltry one percent of the US$25 billion was actually submitted into state coffers – meaning that, not only were the local people of Marange deprived of their resources, but the entire nation was prejudiced by a few in the powerful political elite, in bed with scandalous predominantly Chinese entities.
Is there, then, any wonder even us in Kwekwe have nothing at all to show for living in the ‘City of Gold’ – since, it is estimated that over US$1.5 billion (about one third) worth of gold is smuggled from Zimbabwe by those connected to the ruling elite, and who are never held to account for their crimes?
We are just as impoverished and struggling as the rest of Zimbabwe.
I wonder how the people of Chegutu and surrounding areas are also faring – considering vast platinum resources in their area.
In fact, have we not been hearing of farmers – some of whom allocated farms through the government’s own ‘Land Reform Program’, touted as ‘addressing historical imbalances’ – who are being threatened with eviction by the same ‘liberators’ (some being retired military officers, and corrupt agriculture ministry officials) working in cahoots with Chinese companies?
The main question on most Zimbabweans’ minds now is – what fate awaits the nation after the discovery of lithium, natural gas and oil reserves?
More violent evictions, and placement on useless land – with barely any housing, schooling, medical facilities or amenities – and, never getting a cent from the lithium, oil and natural gas mined in their own area?
Have we not already been receiving disturbing reports of scandalous deals in the allocation of mining rights in lithium mining in Mberengwa – again, involving Chinese companies, hand-in-hand with politically-exposed individuals, some already fingered in underhand questionable gold dealings – with locals allegedly being paid US$100 for a tonne of ore, yet being resold for US$800.
How then are we to be optimistic and celebratory when it is clear that nothing has changed for the people of Zimbabwe – as only a privileged few will continue reaping the rewards of our God-given wealth?
Why can we not be like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – ironically, the same people our current leaders love doing business with?
When the name Dubai is mentioned, what image comes into people’s minds?
Do we not see towering skyscrapers, the latest technologies, the best infrastructure in the world, and a population living in relative comfort and opulence?
Yet, the UAE is blessed with only two primary resources – oil and natural gas!
Only two of the 40 natural resources we boast of here in Zimbabwe!
However, in the UAE, one never finds the destitute and poverty-stricken – they do not even have the homeless and so-called ’street children’!
There is never any disgruntlement from workers earning below the poverty datum line, or a population characterized by the UN as living in extreme poverty (earning less than US$1.90 a day).
In spite of the UAE being in a desert climate – with an average rainfall of only 140 to 200 mm per annum – there is never anyone going hungry, and requiring food aid to ward off starvation.
The Emiratis have a treasure and blessing far much more precious than oil and natural gas.
The people of the UAE have a caring, trustworthy and competent leadership – a far cry from our own reviled kleptomaniac inapt criminal cartel we have in power in Zimbabwe.
The UAE produces an average of 3.2 million barrels of petroleum and liquids per day – together with natural gas constituting 85 percent of the country’s US$360 billion economy – making it the fifth largest economy in the Middle East, after Iran [ironically, under the worst economic sanctions ever imposed on any country], Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt.
However, national resources are not necessarily what determine a country’s prosperity or lack of – but, the type and quality of leadership in office.
In fact, the UAE is repeatedly classified as the least corrupt country in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region – and, continues to surpass other non-MENA nations, including the USA, South Korea, Spain, Portugal and Italy.
Each and every dollar derived from the country’s resources is faithfully channeled towards the uplifting of the citizenry’s livelihoods.
It is with a heavy heart, and unbearably embarrassing, that I have to declare that Zimbabwe’s greatest misfortune is the pathetic and disgraceful leaders we have in power – whose only desire is to loot our national resources for their own enrichment, at the expense of an impoverished population.
What, then, is there for Zimbabweans to celebrate over the discovery of even more resources?
We can have 1,000 precious minerals – but, we will still be suffering and languishing in poverty!
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936, or email: [email protected]Post published in: Featured