Parties must ensure better resource governance
SADC politics must help transform mining sector to benefit all
Following a landmark conference in Harare, representatives from ruling and opposition parties in southern Africa united around the need to ensure better resource governance in the region in order to drive equitable, inclusive and sustainable socio-economic growth.
Recognising that the exploitation of the region’s natural wealth is not contributing to a decrease in poverty and inequality, the participants agreed that it was time for all political parties to commit themselves to working together to urgently transform the extractive sector so that it supports poverty alleviation, the development of local economies and genuine job creation, while also safeguarding community rights and the environment.
Organised by the SAPES Trust, the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), the conference on the role of political parties in resource governance brought together 40 participants from 10 Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries – Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
At the end of the conference, the participants signed a powerful communique calling for a radical overhaul of the way that the natural resource sector in southern Africa is governed.
The participants acknowledged the serious challenges facing the extractive sector – in relation to transparency, accountability, corruption, public participation, limited contribution to social and economic development, and the weak human and technical capacity of southern African states to negotiate with investors on a level playing field. Indeed, the communique listed the following concerns:
- The secrecy surrounding mining contracts and the continued violation of laws and principles pertaining to access to information;
- The corruption and lack of information along the entire mining value chain and how revenues are optimised and utilised;
- The continued violation of national and regional laws as well as international laws and standards by mining companies;
- The selective application and implementation of existing legislative frameworks within the extractive industries;
- The limited linkages and opportunities to participate within the mining sector as well as with the rest of the economy; and
- The adverse environmental, labour and social impact of mining operations, if done in an unsustainable and irresponsible manner;
However, the participants agreed that these challenges could be tackled if all political parties formulated and popularised policies on equitable natural resource management, and committed themselves to devising alternative policy frameworks that are more pro-poor, and are aligned to the Africa Mining Vision, the SADC Mining Harmonisation Framework and the SADC Parliamentary Barometer.
And the participants also called on governments across the region to:
- Play an active developmental and regulatory role, and invest returns from natural resources into ensuring key socio-economic rights – such as access to health, education and water – and improving public services and environmental protection;
- Put in place mechanisms to enhance the understanding and integration of applicable international legal and policy instruments, such as those that promote equity, participation, accountability and transparency;
- Support the diversification of the economy and reduce the reliance on the mining sector alone;
- Democratise the process of formulating natural resource and development policies;
- Align national mining policies to the Africa Mining Vision and other regional mining policy instruments;
- Ensure access to information and invest in improving technical knowhow on the different aspects of this sector;
- Promote active participation and ownership of the principles of the African Mining Vision and the SADC Parliamentary Barometer for Natural Resource Governance;
- Integrate the extractive sector into rural economies and develop models for community development agreements.
But what was very clear was that the political party representatives realised that they can no longer leave it up to governments, mining companies, communities and civil society to struggle to improve resource governance. It is time for political parties to live up to their responsibilities and to monitor the sector more closely, particularly the negotiations around the extraction of natural resources, which should be guided by national development interest and needs.