MINING firms yesterday came under fire from stakeholders for viewing themselves as "godfathers" and treating corporate social responsibility as a charitable activity and not as an obligation to the community.
Corporate firms take social responsibility as charity work but the stakeholders feel this should be used for accountability purposes and should be mandatory.
This emerged during a workshop organised by two civic organisations aimed at presenting the research outcome of two local platinum companies' contribution to corporate social responsibility.
The Zimbabwe Environment Lawyers Association and the Southern Africa Resou-rce Watch presented results of research it undertook on Zimplats and Mimosa mines.
The event was attended by members of the Parliamentary Portfolio committee on Mines and Energy, civic society members, mining firms among other stakeholders.
The stakeholders noted that there was no enabling legislation compelling mining firms to undertake corporate social responsibility. They also noted the absence of benchmarks of what it constitutes.
Many mining firms, it was noted, were setting aside a very nominal percentage from their profits, taking advantage of the absence of a financial threshold they should comply with.
On Zimplats, Mr Showes Mawowa noted a huge gender disparity, lack of consultation with the community, failure to provide education facilities commensurate with the surge of pupils among other issues that ought to be addressed.
"The company does not consult the intended beneficiaries and at one stage it bought wrong dictionaries for the local school. The people we talked to said they just saw the books coming and the books were just piled in shelves," said Mr Mawowa.
It was also noted that mining firms were reluctant to disclose specific figures or details related to their contracts with the Government, indigenisation and empowerment issues, taxation, or how much they have contributed towards corporate social responsibility, citing confidentiality.
In his response, Zimplats chief finance manager, Mr Patrick Shambare said the firm spends two percent of its gross profit per year towards corporate social responsibility.
"This year we will spend about US$1, 8 million and in the coming year, the figure should be around US$2, 8 million," he said.
Stakeholders still felt that the two percent was nominal considering that mining firms get tax rebates on each activity they would have undertaken.
SARW representative, Mr Claude Kape-mba said mining firms should not take corporate social responsibility as a charitable activity.
"They take it as a voluntary activity, yet they get tax rebates. It is, however, difficult to fix the percentage because it differs from one community to the other," said Mr Kapemba, whose organisation covers 10 Sadc countries.
Uzumba Member of Parliament Simba Mudarikwa (Zanu-PF) said it is improper to exclude State entities benefiting from mining activities from undertaking corporate social responsibilities as well.
He said the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority should also be seen to be doing something to communities they work under.
"The issue is about what is our national policy; that is what we need. MMCZ is benefiting from mining but it sponsors golf, ZMDC, ZIMRA, they are all getting money from the mining sector, but is there any money going to that community from these institutions?" asked Cde Mudarikwa.