Community data extractors from Marange & Arda Transau

“We last received the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) funds in 2014 at Mavhiza primary school in Marange.” This comment was made by Mr Mavhiza, a Publish What You Pay Zimbabwe community data extractor, from Marange Development Trust, during a half day workshop facilitated by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) in Mutare on 01 April 2017. BEAM is a government social protection programme meant to support poor children to get educated. Participants included 20 community data extractors from Marange Development Trust (MDT) and Arda Transau Relocation Development Trust (ATRDT) and 3 local journalists. Certainly, 1 April is renowned world over for being a fool’s day. Given that resource rich communities were being skilled to dig data, analyse data and use data to demand the change that they want to see, communities can no longer be fooled easily by government and mining companies. Marange, incidentally, is notoriously known for alluvial diamond mining activities that resulted into the “missing $15 billion.”

The new Constitution, commendably, expanded the bill of rights to include Environmental Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (EESCRs). With the right to education, health and clean, safe and portable water enshrined in the Constitution along with other Socio-Economic Rights (SERs), essentially, service delivery is no longer a question of fulfilling community needs or a charity matter. Rather, service delivery is now viewed through the lens of promoting the progressive realisation of SERs of communities. Exactly, the reason why community monitors must be well versed with their constitutional rights. As impressive as this development might appear, the fulfilment of SERs is subjected to the limit of available resources as per the Constitution. Hence it is imperative for communities to participate in the management of public resources as this has a telling effect on the fulfilment of their SERs. Further, communities must participate in the management and utilisation of their natural resource wealth. Section 13 subsection 4 of the Constitution directs the state to ensure that communities derive benefits from resources in their localities.

The management of public funds entails efficient generation of revenue, allocation of revenue in a manner that responds to national development priorities, using value for money to utilise the resources and monitoring and evaluation of the results through audit reports, for instance. Sadly, for Marange community, the potential for a windfall revenue from diamond extraction did not commensurately reflect in the coffers of both national and local government. Budget statements from 2010 to 2016 consistently flagged that the nation is not getting its fair share of diamond revenue from Marange. Annual financial statements (2014 & 2015) for Mutare rural district council revealed that diamond mining companies barely contributed to the local fiscus.

Opaqueness has been the main challenge. It is impossible for communities to know the overall mineral revenue contribution to the national purse. Let alone the contribution from Marange diamonds as well as contributions of individual entities operating in Marange. As such, communities struggle to hold to account government and mining companies on curbing illicit financial flows that resulted in the leakage of $15 billion as per the President’s assertion. Obviously, it would muddy the waters to debate the actual amount lost, but what is clear is the consensus from different quarters that the state never received its fair share and substantial diamond revenue was lost.

So, the argument that resource limitation is affecting delivery of public services which anchor human and economic development falls flat in the face of failure to curb illicit financial flows from the country’s abundant mineral wealth. The community data extractors also noted with concern that national and local government budget statements do not reveal the contribution from mineral wealth. This is against the principle of good governance which is one of the cornerstone to the Constitution.

After scrutinising mobilisation of public funds, the community data extractors looked at the national budget statement for 2017 with focus on ear marked revenue streams such as BEAM and Aids levy. BEAM fund is essential to promote the realisation of educational rights of many poor and marginalised communities, particularly the girl child. Whilst the AIDS levy is there to promote the health rights of those living with HIV and AIDS.

In analysing the budget allocation, community data extractors were eager to see if resources were being allocated equitably to ensure that marginalised people and areas get a fair share. Equitable distribution of resources is critical to fight inequality in our society as directed by the constitution. Although it was noted that $10 million was ear marked for BEAM funds (2017 national budget), transparency deficits meant that it was not clear how much each province, district and school was allocated from the BEAM fund. Marange community’s interest to monitor and track social safety funds such as BEAM stemmed from the fact their district, Mutare rural, was ranked as one of the poorest district by the National Poverty and Income Survey conducted in 2012 by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT). Therefore, allocation of national funds for development should be pro poor in line with the requirements of the Constitution.

After dealing with allocation of funds community monitors were encouraged to look at the monthly expenditure accounts for the ministry of education to check if the BEAM funds were disbursed including the utilisation of funds. This is important given that government is struggling to pay civil servants. Yet without community pressure, disbursement of funds meant for social safety nets like BEAM can easily be sacrificed. Also, community data extractors were encouraged to look at the reports from the Auditor General to pressure both central and local government to implement the recommendations.

To wrap up, community monitoring, obviously, gains strength if it uses rights based approaches particularly linked with budget tracking and service delivery issues. Knowledge of the Constitution, essentially, is the bedrock for community monitoring. Without data, it is difficult for community demands to be credible and to influence evidence driven policy and practice reforms. Precisely, this is the reason why ZELA works with resource rich communities to build their capacities to demand transparency and accountability in the management and utilisation of public resources. This is quite important given that Zimbabwe is a mineral rich country. The country’s socio- economic development plan (ZIMASSET), without doubt, is hinged on judicious exploitation of the country’s abundant mineral wealth. However, without mineral revenue transparency initiatives like the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) or its home-grown version, the Zimbabwe Mineral Revenue Transparency Initiative (ZMRTI), resource rich communities will always struggle to hold to account government and mining companies. Hence, transparency is critical to ensure that resource rich communities derive benefits inform of better education and health services in line with the requirements of Section 13 of the Constitution.