Mining with Community Development: The Experience of the Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation in Ghana


Development is fraught with several “backs-and-forth”, leaving us with no universally accepted way to realise development aspirations. Scholar Jean-Pierre Olivier de-Sardan contends that development professionals situate development practice within two paradigms: “Development seeks the welfare of others, hence its strong moral connotation; and development implies technical and economic progress, hence its strong evolutionist and technicist connotation”. Olivier de-Sadan’s position resonates with the approaches employed by development actors in the international development space. Instructively, his notion of development as “actions for change” in a given system has wide applicability. These actions can be initiated either by various actors alone, or in collaboration with others. An important case in point is the Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation (NADeF), exemplary of actions by a private mining entity with the active support of local actors for change in the Ahafo mine area of Ghana.

Mining, contrary to development, is typically perceived as destructive; an extraction of communal resources for corporate and individual benefits. Development experts Bebbington et al describe mining as ambiguous and contentious. It is ambiguous because of the latent optimism among the general public that perhaps mining could contribute more than it does. It is contentious because it leads to adverse environmental, social and economic impacts for the many and significant gains for a few. Bebbington et al conclude that: “in the coexistence of such divergent feelings about mining and its human and environmental impacts lie the seeds of much conflict”.

Mining, contrary to development, is typically perceived as destructive; an extraction of communal resources for corporate and individual benefits.

Development is so piously construed, and mining perceived to be so deleterious that it is almost impossible to reconcile the two. The NADeF case suggests, however, that mining can be undertaken with the community to attain goals that are mutually beneficial and sustainable. Through the NADeF case study, this briefing challenges the notion that mining is destructive; and describes a successful case of the application of “mining-with-communities” as best practice on the global discourse on sustainable mining.


NADeF’s approach to sustainable development in “mine-take” communities

NADeF was a commitment by the then Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Newmont Mining Corporation, Wayne W. Murdy. During a visit to Ghana, he made a public commitment to contribute $1 per ounce of gold sold and 1% of net pre-tax annual profit from its mining operation in Ahafo for the sustainable development of the mine area. This commitment culminated in the formation of the Ahafo Social Responsibility Forum (ASRF). The ASRF was composed of 53 members, drawn from representative groups. The ASRF processes were led by an independent moderator and a co-moderator for over two years, resulting in 3 main agreements:

  • Relationship Agreement: strengthens the relationship between Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL), the Ghanaian subsidiary of Newmont Mining Corporation and the Community
  • Employment Agreement: spells out modalities governing the employment of locals by NGGL; and
  • Foundation Agreement: focuses on the funding and implementation of sustainable development projects within the communities.

The NADeF was subsequently incorporated as a trust limited by guarantee with a nine-member Board of Trustees. Since then NADeF has ensured shared value between corporate Newmont and the mine-take communities.  The Ahafo operations of NGGL are located in ten communities in the Ahafo Region of Ghana. The Communities were all supported by NGGL’s community development unit and the NADeF secretariat to establish Sustainable Development Committees (SDCs). Each committee was composed of two representatives from the traditional council, a representative of the youth, one representative of the unit committees, a representative of women and one person nominated by the Traditional Authority but who is not a member of the traditional authority in question.

This commitment culminated in the formation of the Ahafo Social Responsibility Forum (ASRF). The ASRF was composed of 53 members, drawn from representative groups.

The SDCs prepare project proposals on an annual basis for onward submission to the NADeF secretariat for approval and implementation. As a result, the members of the SDCs have been taken through capacity building programmes on defining and identifying community problems and needs; prioritizing community needs; resource mobilization; identification of potential projects, opportunities, constraints and challenges; visioning; objectives and target setting; and project implementation (NADeF, 2009).


NADeF’s success stories and challenges

The NADeF has proved to be a success. It generates about $4million annually to support the development of the “mine-take” communities. Beyond financial commitments, NADeF has set-up SDCs to initiate and manage local development concerns. The capacities of these committee members have been enhanced to enable them take up higher community development responsibilities when the mine finally closes.

NADeF currently invests 15% of its annual income into high interest yielding financial instruments to be used for community development interventions in the future, when NGGL exits. This is expected to rise to 25% five years into the operations of NADeF. While the development concerns of the present are being addressed, measures are also in place to address the needs of future generations.

The NADeF has proved to be a success. It generates about $4million annually to support the development of the “mine-take” communities.

On the physical development front, NADeF has in the past few years invested over $9,236,070.39 on various projects in the communities. These range from schools through to teachers’ quarters, libraries, water systems, electricity/power projects, health facilities, community festivals and other socio-cultural activities.

Notwithstanding the successes outlined above, remaining challenges need to be addressed. There are instances where people who are gainfully employed have been granted NADeF scholarships, when indeed they are not, by any objective criteria, financially needy. There is also increasing reliance of communities on NADeF for almost everything. Communities which were initially self-mobilising now rely entirely on NADeF and NGGL to meet their development needs. This level of dependence needs to be reversed as an integral part of NADeF’s strategy going forward.

NADeF has in the past few years invested over $9,236,070.39 on various projects in the communities.

The relative success of NADeF initiative has attracted the attention of industry actors and other stakeholders. In the past few years, the Foundation has been visited by high profile personalities such as the US ambassador to Ghana, and Jennifer Barsky of the International Finance Corporation. These visits were in recognition of the outstanding role the Foundation is playing in the development of host communities. The Foundation has also been invited to present details of its approach at high level conferences, to help improve best practices within the mining industry. Key among these were the Foundation’s participation in the Pan African grant-makers assembly in Kenya in 2010; and the African Community Foundations Peer Learning and Exchange, also in Kenya in 2010.

NADeF is on the right track towards achieving sustainable development for the “mine-take” communities in the Ahafo area. However, the emerging challenges need to be seriously addressed so that NADeF’s activities can be generationally and sustainably beneficial well beyond the life of any given mine.


David is an urban/regional planner, a senior lecturer and the Head of the Department of Planning and Sustainability of the University of Energy and Natural Resources, in Sunyani, Ghana. He holds a BSc in Planning from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), a MSc in Development Planning and Management from TU (1) Dortmund/KNUST and PhD in Regional Development from the University of Tasmania in 2015. With research interests in sustainable and pro-poor land policy, decentralisation and local governance, among other topics, David has a wealth of knowledge and expertise to bring to our conversation.

Reimagining rural education in Zimbabwe post COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a stark reminder that advances in access to education in recent decades should not be taken for granted. Children have suffered severely from global lockdowns that have prevented access to schooling and, in many cases, severely compromised their nutrition.

Schoolchildren cross a flooded river. Photo: Hopewell Chin’ono

In Zimbabwe, we have seen how COVID-19 has had a disproportionately  negative impact upon the rural learners, who constitute at least 70% of the country’s school enrolment. The rural learners often do not have the same level of access to the internet and kinds of education technologies and learning tools available to their more well-connected urban peers.

The 2020 Grade 7 results confirm this. As important as COVID-19 safety measures are, the Zimbabwean government’s 2021 ‘back to school’ plan and conversations about the COVID-19 response must go beyond the ‘handwashing, sanitizing and social distancing’ emphasis, by recognising and addressing the major deficiencies and inequalities within Zimbabwe’s education sector which the pandemic has laid bare.

This is a sector which, in the 90s, had a formidable reputation, with one of the best literacy rates in Africa despite pre and post war governance challenges. There is an opportunity for the Zimbabwean government to utilise new technologies to fundamentally change how rural education is provided, while also addressing the longstanding issues of  teacher remuneration and other key challenges within the sector.

Lessons from the  dismal Grade 7 results. 

The 2020  Grade 7 Examinations results, recently released by  the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC), reflected a  dismal pass rate of 37.11% from an equally low 46.9% in the  previous year. Of the 327 559 candidates who sat for the examinations, the  highest number of those who passed were in urban based, largely private  schools in the metro provinces of Bulawayo and Harare. In some  of Zimbabwe’s rural provinces, several schools recorded zero percent pass rate. Further analysis of the results revealed that in Lupane and other parts of the country, some Grade 7 candidates are illiterate.

Although the COVID-19 lockdowns’ almost year-long school closures  posed  major disruptions to learning, these results reflect a decades-long downward trend which  bucks against the global trend of a massive increase, on average, of access to schooling across the developing world over the last few decades. Zimbabwe’s downward trend is rooted in  systematic neglect, especially of rural learners, that foreshadows the failure of the country’s public education system.

Four decades after the attainment of independence, the fact that learners are emerging   illiterate, after at least seven years of primary school education anywhere in Zimbabwe, is  scandalous. As noted by the Borgen Project, ‘The ability to read and write is one of the few skills with the power to completely change a person’s life. Literacy is vital to education and employment, as well as being incredibly beneficial in everyday life.’ The cases of illiteracy  not only reflect the cost of bad governance but simmering inequalities that have been ignored. A significant section of the population has been and continues to  be left behind. The country’s leadership needs to urgently exercise political astuteness and  action sustainable solutions that set Zimbabwe’s education on a path towards the full realisation of Sustainable Development Goal 4, which seeks  to ‘ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.’

Refocusing the debate

Some of the interpretations of the dismal Grade 7 results spoke volumes about the incapacity of the country’s leadership (or lack thereof) in advancing solutionist thinking. There is need to refocus the debate from the deep political polarization in the country. Cain Mathema, the Minister of primary and secondary education, foreclosed constructive solution-driven  conversations, dismissing the results as a reflection of the negative impact of western imposed sanctions. Further to this, the ZIMSEC board chairperson, Professor Eddy Mwenje, reductively attributed this clearly decades long downward trend to COVID-19 induced setbacks. As COVID-19 has become a characteristic alibi in the face of its incompetence, the government continues to bury its head in the sand, overlooking the need for further investigations into why, for example, some candidates did not turn up for examinations, even  in certain urban areas. Some rural  students failed to make it for their examinations due to poor community  infrastructure  in the face of disasters such as floods.

Decades of lack of political will have led to budget mis-prioritisations that have brought the public education sector in its entirety to its knees. This was greatly to the detriment of  learners from socio-economically vulnerable households, which are essentially the majority.


Firstly, Zimbabwe has tangible lessons to draw from the Senator David Coltart-led Ministry of Education’s transformative milestones of the inclusive government era. This era reveals much about the crucial role of political leadership in delivering equality of access and education for all. Despite a dire economic context during that period, the sector recorded notable improvements, including enhanced teacher welfare and a drastic improvement in the textbook to learner ratio, from 1: 15 to 1 : 1  for a minimum of  six subjects

Further to this, Zimbabwe’s ministries of education should deliberately draw  lessons from world-acclaimed public education programmes like Singapore’s, which is credited for achieving ‘excellence without wide differences between children from wealthy and disadvantaged families’. This is key to bridging the widening rural-urban learner inequalities within the country. The current Ministry of Education can engage the Government of Singapore on the possibility of bilateral skills and knowledge transfer through capacity building for the country’s education sector.

Photo: Hopewell Chin’ono

The government should also review ongoing and previously implemented projects that are a potential launchpad for rural education technological advancement, such as the Presidential Schools Computerisation Programme, launched in the year 2000, the Rural Electrification Programme(REP), launched in 2002, as well as the Presidential Computerisation and E-Learning  Programmes.

Lastly, there are opportunities and lessons from the Strive Masiyiwa inspired and led USD $100 million funded Re-Imagine Rural Zimbabwe/Africa programme that promotes entrepreneurs with solutions to improve rural Zimbabwe/Africa, that could possibly be implemented today.


The Grade 7 results therefore reflect a microcosm of the structural challenges and deepening inequality in the access to this all important public good. Rural learners are  lagging behind. Guided by the United Nations, one of the important next steps is for the government to take the lead in advancing funding while at the same time embarking  on other creative approaches (e.g. Private Public Partnerships and well managed Community Share Ownership Trusts) to adequately fund this technologically driven future of rural education. Further to this, the government should scale up some of its notable successes, and learn from global best practices to address discriminatory policies and social practices, to ensure that no one remains behind. It is time the government considers rural technological advancement and, more specifically, internet connectivity as a foundational  right, a precursor to enabling SDG4.

COVID-19 has only laid bare the unique pre-existent challenges that the country’s socio-economically marginalised rural communities face. The solution must begin with a move away from the partisan, ill-focused rhetoric by policy makers, to constructive engagements aimed at addressing the discrimination and inequality faced by the rural learner and teacher. Securing and directing adequate funding to the education sector to largely address the remuneration and working conditions of teachers is critical. However, the most urgent call in addressing the inequality gap for the rural learner is addressing the infrastructural, technology and connectivity gap, to enable rural learners some kind of soft landing onto this technology driven education era.

The government, particularly the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, must re-focus the debate and re-orientate funding priorities. As already noted, related projects have been embarked on before. There can no longer be full enabling or realisation of  the right to education that does not take into account enabling internet connectivity.

Sikhululekile Mashingaidze currently serves as Senior Researcher in the Human Security and Climate Change (HSCC) project at Good Governance Africa. Being engaged as a part-time enumerator for Mass Public Opinion Institute’s diversity of research projects during her undergraduate years ushered her into and nurtured her passion for the governance field. She has worked with Habakkuk Trust, Centre for Conflict Resolution(CCR-Kenya), Mercy Corps Zimbabwe and Action Aid International Zimbabwe, respectively. This has, over the years, enriched her grassroots and national level governance projects’ implementation and management experience. Her academic research interests are in the field of genocide studies with a commitment to deepen her understanding of girls and women’s experiences, their agency in reconstituting everyday life and their inclusion in peace-building and transitional justice processes. Socially she has a keen commitment in supporting girls education, women’s economic empowerment and the fulfilment of their equitable and sustainable development in Africa’s underserved, often hard to reach communities. She enjoys writing and telling the stories of navigating everyday life.


Social licences and community rights: An assessment of the Xolobeni community


The Xolobeni community refers to a group of people from five coastal villages on South Africa’s Wild Coast who have been resisting plans to exploit world-class deposits of titanium-bearing minerals on a section of this coastline for almost fifteen years. Over this time, they have become organized (the Amadiba Crisis Committee leads local resistance to the mine), garnered support, and used public interest litigation under South Africa’s Constitution to advance their cause: The recognition of community vision and rights in relation to mining, sustainability, development and land.

Their cause: The recognition of community vision and rights in relation to mining, sustainability, development and land.

They have suffered violence in their community (between groups for and against the development of the region as a mining area and the construction of a major toll road) and personal loss: One of their leaders was assassinated in 2016, a second died after a short illness in November 2020, and a third received a death threat in the same month. And yet they continue to fight.


From the perspective of the proponents of the Xolobeni Mineral Sands project – various pockets of the State, some traditional authorities, the Australian ASX-Listed Mineral Resources Commodities Ltd (MRC), its subsidiary TEM and empowerment partner “Xolco” – the Xolobeni community is a massive obstacle to gaining a social licence to operate: A mining industry term of art denoting an informal social contract between a mining company and the communities surrounding its operations. The terms of that social contract are variously defined but include community support and co-operation in exchange for stakeholder recognition, infrastructure development, economic opportunity and jobs.

The case of the Xolobeni community, however, exposes the clay feet of the social licence model, which is the blank refusal of many powerful State and corporate actors to recognize any strong form of community rights over land and the right to determine particular local development trajectories.

From the perspective of the proponents of the Xolobeni Mineral Sands project, the Xolobeni community is a massive obstacle to gaining a social licence to operate.

A social licence to operate fits within a paradigm for mining-led development in resource rich developing countries that has its roots in colonial patterns of exploitation, production and consumption; the drive to liberalize, privatize and globalize in the 1980s and 90s; and the turn to sustainable development in the early 2000s. A key tenet of this paradigm, which I have elsewhere called the sustainable mineral development consensus, is that mining can catalyse sustainable development that alleviates poverty and promotes economic growth if resource rich countries take on board a package of economic and institutional reforms: Instituting the State as the central custodian of mineral rights, protecting investor rights through security of mineral tenure, charging profit – rather than production-based taxes – and “managing” environmental impacts, amongst others. Under this paradigm, communities are stakeholders and interlocutors. They are not protagonists and they are certainly not rights-bearers.

But despite implementing these reforms, Richard Auty’s “resource curse” still dogs the economic performance and development outcomes of some countries with a significant natural resource endowment. Some, but not all. As a recent review of the resource curse theory points out, the presence of a natural resource sector does not necessarily translate into worse development outcomes. Much turns on the type of States and political institutions in which resource-abundant economies develop, with political and economic inclusion being key.

A social licence to operate fits within a paradigm for mining-led development in resource rich developing countries that has its roots in colonial patterns of exploitation, production and consumption.

The question is: Would greater recognition of community rights ground a social licence to operate that could reverse the resource curse?

In South Africa, public interest litigation has led to growing recognition of community rights in a mining context. In the 2010 case of Bengwenyama Minerals (Pty) Ltd v Genorah Resources, the Constitutional Court expounded the meaning of “consultation” between mining companies and communities, holding that landowners must be informed in sufficient detail of prospecting or mining operations that will take place on their land, and that there must be a good faith attempt to reach agreement with landowners on the impact of extractive operations. In the more recent case of Maledu & others v Itereleng Bakgatla Mineral Resources (Pty) Ltd the Constitutional Court held that the granting of a mining right under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002 did not nullify communities’ informal land rights under the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act (IPILRA), 1996 and that the two statutes must be read in a manner that permits each to serve their underlying purpose.

Further compounding the problem is that the former ‘homelands’ (like the Transkei) are characterised by insecure communal land tenure, a problem that remains unresolved despite constitutional provision for greater security. The upshot of this injustice is that traditional leaders tend to hold disproportionate levels of power and may be susceptible to striking bargains with mining companies and state departments that prove destructive to communities and their environments.

In South Africa, public interest litigation has led to growing recognition of community rights in a mining context.

The Xolobeni community has been at the forefront of the fight to secure judicial recognition of community rights. In the 2019 case of Baleni & others v Minister of Mineral Resources the High Court decided that community members could not be deprived of their land rights under IPILRA without their full, prior and informed consent (although this judgment is being appealed). And in a judgment handed down in September 2020, the High Court agreed that communities had a right of access to the information in a prospecting or mining right application without needing to submit a request under the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

And in February 2021, Judge Goliath of the Western Cape High Court handed environmental activists a momentous legal victory when she recognized that MRC’s claim for defamatory damages against a few activists for statements they had made criticizing the company’s operations in the Eastern and Western Cape matched the “DNA” of a SLAPP suit (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation). Speaking out against any attempt to “weaponise” the South African legal system she underlined the essential role that freedom of expression, robust public debate, and the ability to participate in those debates without fear, played in a democratic society and recognized a “SLAPP suit defence” in South African law.

In a judgment handed down in September 2020, the High Court agreed that communities had a right of access to the information in a prospecting or mining right application without needing to submit a request under the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

Taken together, these individual court victories for community and activist rights are establishing the bedrock for a more authentic social licence to operate in South Africa. Over the long term, greater recognition of community rights in a mining context could strengthen the inclusivity of political and economic institutions necessary to start addressing the tragic legacy of the resource curse, not only in South Africa but throughout the continent.


Tracy-Lynn Field is a full professor at the School of Law at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), and advocate of the High Court of South Africa. Professor Field’s work focuses on the law and governance of extractives-based development, climate change, water, and Earth stewardship. She’s also the author of ‘State Governance of Mining, Development and Sustainability’, and has chaired the board of the Centre for Environmental Rights since 2017, actively supporting civil society organisations to secure climate-resilient development for Africa.

A paradigm shift from false expectations of reform in a securocrat state, to a conference to resolve it.

The crisis in Zimbabwe: A paradigm shift


The discussion on the crisis in Zimbabwe has over the years been premised on the false expectation that a state increasingly based and surviving on the strength of a military-security machinery can reform itself out of power. What is required now is an acknowledgement, and a consensus at the national, regional and global levels, that the crisis, one almost similar to that which was resolved almost 40 years ago through the Lancaster House Conference in 1979, has to be confronted and resolved through the agency of consultations. Now, as was the case in 1979, Zimbabwe is a serious cause of regional instability. This process must be initiated at the national level, facilitated by South Africa and SADC and the AU, and scaffolded by the UK, EU, USA, Russia, China and the Commonwealth – leading to an international conference on Zimbabwe.


It is now two decades since the sanctions regime was imposed by the USA in 2001 and by the EU in 2002. And in December 2003, Mugabe quit the Commonwealth over the decision of the latter body to extend sanctions for “undemocratic behaviour”. All this was done with the expectation that the State in Zimbabwe would reform, improve its human rights record and adhere to the standards required for free, fair and credible elections. The record so far is that things have since got worse, with little or no hope for reform.

The (vain) expectations that the November 2017 coup would redeem Zimbabwe from international isolation – under the “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” mantra – has all but gone up in smoke. The resounding consensus, even on the part of those in the global north who supported and/or warmed up to the coup three years ago, is that the State in Zimbabwe has not only failed to institute political and economic reforms, but is also “responsible for the worst human rights violations…, in 2018 and 2019, including the killing of 23 innocent people” (UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab). Thus, the UK announced its first set of designations under the country’s Zimbabwe sanctions regime, ahead of the EU (of which it is no longer a member). They subsequently, on 19 February 2021, renewed their arms embargo and assets freeze against the Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI), citing “a lack of substantial reforms and continued human rights violations in the Southern African nation”, based “also on the need to investigate the role of the security forces in human rights abuses.”

More recently, on 24 February 2021, the Minister of State for the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office in the UK, Lord Ahmed, threatened new measures against Zimbabwe. He stated that the former colonial power was “deeply worried about the state of the Zimbabwean economy, which continues to face unprecedented challenges largely due to corruption, and poor fiscal policies and economic mismanagement by the Government”.

Citing the recent report on the Cartels in Zimbabwe, the Minister said there would be more pressure on the country, in addition to the sanctions already announced on 1 February 2021. “These measures (sanctions) will be maintained as long as the situation on the ground justifies them … We will continue to look at how all the tools available to the UK, including the full range of sanctions regimes, can be used to encourage accountability and reform in Zimbabwe,” said Lord Ahmed.

A vendor scurries for cover with her wares as soldiers disperse demonstrators on August 1 2018, in Harare, after protests erupted over alleged fraud in the country’s election. Photo: Zinyange Auntony/AFP

Across the Atlantic, the new Biden administration is expected to up the ante against the regime in Harare. Speaking at a virtual SAPES Trust Policy Dialogue Forum (on the topic “What will the Biden Presidency mean for USA-Zimbabwe Relations?”) on 21 January 2021, former deputy assistant secretary for African Affairs at the US State Department, Todd Moss, stated that, under Biden, sanctions would remain. He also pointed out that it was a waste of time for Mnangagwa’s administration to hire public relations firms to lobby on its behalf.

More than that, in a statement which inadvertently acknowledged the extent to which targeted sanctions have in effect impacted on the financial and economic spheres of Zimbabwe, Todd Moss made it clear that the USA has effectively put a brake on whatever such international financial institutions as the World Bank and IMF might wish to lend to the country; and would continue to do so given the prevailing political and economic situation in Zimbabwe.


As the moderator on that Policy Dialogue Forum, I raised the question of whether there has been any correlation between, on the one hand, the two decades of sanctions against Zimbabwe and, on the other, the intended objectives of having the regime in Harare move, even gradually and on the basis of some benchmarks, towards reform and respect for human rights.  If the answer to that question is as obvious as the situation has been over the two decades, during which things have increasingly deteriorated, does the sanctions regime not amount to a hollow commitment to principle, an end in itself, and therefore bordering on insincerity on the part of the global North in its purported campaign for a better Zimbabwe?

Surely, it should be obvious by now that it is not that the regime in Harare does not want to reform; quite the contrary, they cannot do so without reforming themselves out of power! To quote former minister Jonathan Moyo as he addressed the Bulawayo Press Club on 2 September 2016, and reported in The Chronicle newspaper on 6 September under a headline, “ZANU PF will never reform itself out of power, Prof Moyo declares”:

“ZANU PF has no intention of creating an environment that will ensure it loses elections … they want to say put in place electoral reforms that will ensure that you lose and we win. And we are saying no … Because the reforms they’re talking about are clear codes to say come with the reforms that will ensure that you’re out …”

A statement made in apparent jest at the occasion, but nevertheless a remarkably accurate reflection of the securocrat state that Zimbabwe’s had increasingly become in the period since 2000. Therefore, the coup of November 2017 was an affirmation of the ZANU PF/ state’s inherent incapacity to transition towards a democratic dispensation. Hence the legacy of a self-fulfilling and, albeit, self-perpetuating process of political and economic crises. In turn, the persistent denials, on the part of the state actors, that there is a crisis in Zimbabwe, constitute almost an ideology, the surreal superstructure, designed to conceal an edifice that is beyond redemption, hurtling inexorably to the precipice. Unless and until the requisite and coordinated action, at the national, regional and international levels takes place. However, this has to begin with a move away from an insistence on reform as the condition for re-engagement towards an acknowledgement that the state in Zimbabwe is extremely bereft of the capacity to change without undoing itself.

At the political level, the factors should be obvious. For the state to implement fully the 2013 constitution would mean effectively a return to constitutionalism, the rule of law, the restoration of national institutions, the separation of powers in the form of an accountable executive, a vibrant legislature, a fiercely independent judiciary, and the return of the military to the barracks. As all this would entail electoral reforms ipso facto, free and fair elections would almost definitely spell the end of ZANU PF as a ruling party, a fate it has so far forestalled through the dominant role of the military-security machinery. This machinery has, ever since 2000, turned every subsequent election into a war zone, including the coup of 2008 when Morgan Tsvangirai, and the MDC, were denied victory, and prevented from taking over power. It is commonplace now that 2008 was a coup, publicly acknowledged by party and state stalwarts since then.

A state that survives only on the strength of the military- security machinery cannot afford a democratic dispensation. Invariably, the abuse of human rights, such killings as happened on 1 August 2018 and January 2019, the abductions (118 such since the coup in 2017), arbitrary arrests of political opponents, decimation of the formal opposition, recall of legitimately elected parliamentarians, a compromised judiciary, etc., all become integral to the architecture and paraphernalia of a securocratic state.

At the economic and social levels, the factors militating against reform are derived largely from the political pathology of a state such as Zimbabwe’s. Overall, it is difficult to imagine how Zimbabwe’s economy can be reformed effectively given both the nature of such a state and the rampant corruption fuelled by an insecure leadership so uncertain of its own tomorrow. Therefore, with no tangible plan ensuring that the proceeds from the country’s rich extractive sector are invested at home and not spirited abroad on the back of cartels that now dominate the towering heights of the economy. The extent of the corruption in the extractive and all other sectors is covered in detail in the Cartels report. These are the very factors that inhibit the engagement of the global economy of which Zimbabwe is an integral part, but without which involvement the country can neither reform effectively nor reach its fullest potential.

Engagement with the global economy would include access to lines of credit, possible debt relief, investment to increase production, address unemployment and grow wealth. Such a reform and re-engagement programme would attract the interest and resourcefulness of Zimbabwe’s Diaspora – in which 75% of all professional and skilled Zimbabweans reside – without which the county’s recovery and reconstruction programme would be incomplete. Besides, the necessary involvement of the Diaspora in this regard will assist in addressing the chronic leadership deficit across the society, and strengthen both civil society and the economy into which they are contributing, in official figures, more than $1 billion per annum in remittances.


So, here is to propose that we move away from the two decades-old and futile refrain of insisting on reform as a condition precedent for re-engagement, to one which acknowledges that the state in Zimbabwe is inherently and fundamentally incapable of such a reform agenda without undoing itself. Therefore, there is need for a new strategy that confronts and addresses the crisis head-on through the following:

  1. National dialogue: Based on an honest acknowledgement of the issues raised above. If so, then the urgent need to take stock of the various attempts so far at a national dialogue, understand why they have not achieved their objective, and make an honest assessment on the basis of which to re-strategize. But this requires a consensus among civil society groups- the Church, NGOs, academia, media, labour and the Diaspora – in the first instance. To state the least, the false start by the National Convergence Platform (NCP), launched with much fanfare in December 2019, was largely due to the lack of a consensus about the nature of the state in Zimbabwe, the goals and objectives of the national dialogue process, not to mention the pandering, on the part of some, to the whims and fancies of the “national dialogue industry”.
  2. Regional Initiative: Led by South Africa but multilateral and involving SADC and the AU; and in conjunction with factors in the international sphere, the UK and the EU, the USA, China and Russia, and the Commonwealth. President Cyril Ramaphosa should revive the initiative (on Zimbabwe) which appears to have stalled mainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The next few weeks and months should witness a more concerted effort at confronting the crisis in Zimbabwe, beginning with behind-the-scenes consultations with both state and non-state actors in Zimbabwe, identifying a Mediation Team to lead the process, and drawing a road map towards an International Conference on the crisis in Zimbabwe. The process towards the formation of a Mediation Team, composed of eminent persons drawn from the region, the continent and the international community, should begin as soon as part of the preparation for the International Conference.
  3. International scaffolding of a national and regional initiative: This has to begin with a consensus among the factors in the global sphere of influence, that it is futile to expect the regime in Harare to institute a viable reform agenda on the political and economic front. The UK, EU and USA have been the main global interlocuters on Zimbabwe over the decades, but it is important that the Commonwealth – especially Australia, India and Canada – resumes its historic role on Zimbabwe. It would be ideal to have the International Conference on Zimbabwe chaired by an eminent person from one of the Commonwealth countries.

With respect to the political parties, the issues have been more complicated, not least by the unprecedented and ultimately senseless campaign by the ZANU PF-led state that appears to believe that dialogue (POLAD) means compromising, dividing and even decimation of the (formal) opposition in Zimbabwe. This has in turn polarised the political environment, between ZANU PF and the MDC alliance, within the MDC as a whole, and even between the factions within the ruling party itself. Meantime, the opposition forces, constituting easily the largest proportion of the country’s population, remain in suspense, rudderless and crying out for an organized leadership. The spectre of a securocratic state stares at us, bereft of a political and social base, alienated from the people, and hanging on a thread. Hardly three years away from the next election in 2023, can this reality scare us from having history repeat itself?

For obvious reasons already stated in the forgoing, there will be no electoral reforms under this regime: none at all, as long as the imperatives of the securocrat state remain alive. So why are the merchants (and their funding agencies) of the “election industry” getting all excited instead of confronting the reality so well-known and exposed like never before? These are some of the questions and issues to constitute a reasonable agenda for a new strategy towards a viable national dialogue, including the issue of a National Transitional Authority (NTA) or something similar, as the basis of resolving the crisis in Zimbabwe.


The process of consultations that must necessarily precede and feed into an International Conference on Zimbabwe will have to begin at the national level, under a representative group- the National Consensus Committee- drawn from civil society (Church, business, academia, labour, media, NGOs, the Diaspora etc.) and the representatives of the political parties. The National Consensus Committee so composed would then engage and liaise with the regional and international factors towards the establishment of the Mediation Team that will convene and conduct the conference. Such consultations would also include a discussion of the items that should be placed on the agenda of the Conference. Inevitably, these would include the following:

  • Return to constitutionalism (including the implementation of the 2013 constitution), the rule of law and the return of the military to the barracks.
  • Restoration of the national institutions, including reform of the judiciary and the public service.
  • Transitional justice, Truth and Reconciliation, including Amnesty arrangements attendant.
  • Economic Reform and Reconstruction Programme, including the return of looted resources, Debt Relief and the establishment of the Zimbabwe Reconstruction and Development Fund.
  • Establishment of a Transitional Authority through which to implement the above before any election is held.

This is an incredibly delicate exercise and process, requiring patience and selfless commitment on the part of the National Consensus Committee, with the facilitation of South Africa, SADC and the AU, and the requisite scaffolding by the UK, EU, USA, China, Russia and the Commonwealth.

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