- Click here to view a copy of Crisis Group's report on the gold mining sector in Zimbabwe. (1.41 MB)
Instability in Zimbabwe caused by a spike in violence in the country’s gold mining sector over the last year, has eroded the export revenue that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government “urgently needs to keep the country’s struggling economy afloat,” independent nongovernmental organisation Crisis Group senior consultant for Southern Africa Piers Pigou laments.
In a statement on November 24, Pigou says this “bloodshed” – which has seen hundreds lose their lives – “is better seen as a symptom of Zimbabwe’s flawed centralised gold buying scheme, patronage-based economy and obsolete legal and regulatory system”.
A detailed comparison of three mining sites, based on new field research, reveals that political interests often drive violence, while gang violence flourishes around gold mining sites where the rule of law is weak, according to the statement.
“Reforms and development in the gold sector are crucial. Gold is Zimbabwe’s largest foreign exchange earner and Zimbabwe’s only major export commodity that has not dropped radically in price during the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic,” notes Crisis Group economics of conflict fellow Anouk Rigterink.
Therefore, Rigterink suggests that the priorities of Mnangagwa’s government should include giving artisanal mining cooperatives legal standing, paying gold producers benchmarked prices to reduce smuggling and strengthening mining dispute resolution.
Mining companies should also cooperate with artisanal miners, whose representative bodies should professionalise, he says, while multilateral organisations, such as the International Monetary Fund and neighbour South Africa should include metrics on mining when assessing Zimbabwe’s reform.
“The Mnangagwa government, mining companies, civil society and international actors can take steps to dial back this worrying uptick in violence. Absent such steps, cycles of violence will recur, hurting industrial miners’ profits and artisanal miners’ livelihoods, not to mention President Mnangagwa’s political standing,” Rigterink concludes.