Parliamentarians from a cross-section of political parties have endorsed a proposal to return the Mineral Revenue Sharing Mechanism (MRSM) back to the Mines and Minerals Development Act.

And the Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) told members of parliament that there was need for the mechanism to be included in the Act to benefit local communities who host mining activities.

Meanwhile, the Zambia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (ZEITI) have observed that challenges relating to transparency on how mining tax revenues are utilised by government still persist.

According to the CTPD, under Article 136 of the Mines and Minerals Development Act (2008), government is required to implement the MRSM as a means of enhancing revenue sharing to host communities where mining activities take place following strong concerns that indigenous communities still do not benefit from the mining companies.

However, that particular clause was repealed by the Ministry of Mines in view of a lack of clear-cut guidelines on how the mechanism would be implemented.

But following a one-day meeting with 19 parliamentarians hosted by CTPD, Bwana Mkubwa PF member of parliament Dr Jonas Chanda said parliamentarians roundly endorsed the think-tank’s proposals to return the MRSM back to the Mines and Minerals Development Act.

“I think that one is overwhelming! Every one of us agrees. What we may not agree is the mechanism in which things may be done. We have all been complaining of how people are not benefiting from the mineral wealth that we have; it’s benefiting the foreign companies; there is externalisation of monies as dividends to those outsiders. We want our communities to benefit so I think the consensus is there,” Dr Chanda told News Diggers! in an interview at Fresh View Homes in Siavonga, Saturday.

“So, I think on this issue, all of us agree that we need to bring that back as a clause so that the respective communities benefit and the country has to benefit from the mineral wealth.”

He added that the return of the clause would ensure that host communities are not rendered destitute once mining companies pull out their investment.

“Mining is a wasting asset; it’s not something that you are going to be with. A good example is in my constituency. The first mine on the Copperbelt was in 1902 – Bwana Mkubwa Mine. But if you come to Bwana Mkubwa today, there’s just an open pit, there’s no copper, and the water there is contaminated; there’s acid. So, what have the people of Bwana Mkubwa benefited from that copper, which has been dug for over a hundred years? Nothing,” Dr Chanda added.

“By the way, we are just putting the first tar marc road now after 116 years, not from mining resources, but from the government resource envelope. So, that shows you the disaster that can happen. And what has happened at Bwana Mkubwa is what will consequently happen in all the mining towns; starting from the Copperbelt going to North-Western [Province]. So, to me, we should act urgently, and we shouldn’t be timid to act; it’s our wealth, so the earlier we act, the better.”

Dr Chanda said political will in Parliament was strong to introduce a Bill that would ensure the mineral sharing mechanism was enacted.

“But I have no doubt that once the Ministry of Mines have a buy-in that Bill can be made because we are talking about domestic resource mobilisation and resources benefiting the local communities. That can be done quickly; I cannot put a timeline because there are many stakeholders involved. But from the side of Parliament, that is something that we can lobby very quickly,” he said.

“A Bill is more likely to pass if it’s coming from government, then we make sure that it’s bipartisan where we all lobby members of parliament irrespective of the side. Right now, we have an opportunity because we are discussing the (2019) budget in Parliament and we haven’t yet debated the appropriations towards the Ministry of Mines so it’s a huge opportunity when we are debating on mines. We should bring up these issues.”

He further expressed gratitude to the CTPD for shedding light on the importance on having the clause returned back to the Act.

“…Very helpful! We have learnt a lot of information on how these resources, which should be benefiting us, as a country, are being externalised out. I think there are very good proposals on how these mineral royalties should be shared. There are proposals to take them to the local authorities…some of us have issues with most of the local authorities in view of the Auditor General’s Report; our local authorities need a lot of capacity-building, systems building and they just need to be put in order. Otherwise, just taking money to them in their current state may be a disaster! But that still does not stop the issue that we need to mobilise those resources for the local communities,” explained Dr Chanda.

Earlier, following CTPD presentations focused on the MRSM, MPs roundly endorsed the proposal to bring back the clause, but did express reservations on how the funds generated would be managed at local level.

And CTPD executive director Isaac Mwaipopo told MPs that there was need for the mechanism to be included in the Act to benefit local communities who host mining activities.

He explained the benefits of the mechanism in terms of revenues retained to respond to pressing developmental needs.

Meanwhile, Zambia EITI secretariat head Siforiano Banda observed that challenges relating to transparency on how mining tax revenues are utilised by government still persist as all funds collected from various sectors of the economy are deposited in Control Account 99 held at the central bank.

He, however, added that the practice was also common in other jurisdictions.

The CTPD meeting was a follow-up to an initial interaction held with another group of MPs last year, with an overall objective to lobby parliamentarians to adopt, legislate and implement the Mineral Revenue Sharing Mechanism.