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Community-based activism and local content development: the case of platinum mining communities in Zimbabwe.

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Through examination of community-based activism on local content development (LCD), the study considers the applicability of the “double movement” theory of Karl Polanyi (1944) against the ongoing neoliberal agenda favoured by the multinational mining companies (MNCs) in Zimbabwe. Karl Polanyi (1944:136) observed that the attempts to “dis-embed” the market from social controls in the 19th and early 20th centuries (market liberalisation) led to what he called “double movements” (countermovement). The countermovement were meant to “re-embed” the market within social constraints with the state’s facilitatory and regulatory role being guaranteed. Activism emerged in the target areas pushing for mining companies to promote LDC in the platinum sector. However, the activism was not fully supported by the state through relevant policies and laws. Thus, the researcher uses Polanyi (1994)’s “double movement” theory in explaining the activism, its dynamics, strategies employed and outcomes. The study argues that the local communities fail to maximise mining opportunities due to lack of an appropriate legislative and policy framework on LCD. Without a proper governing framework and clear quantitative and qualitative measurable targets on LCD, it is not possible to regulate and monitor the activities of foreign firms’ community activists. Mining firms are also not obliged to fulfil corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. Yet, local communities are directly affected by social and environmental impacts of mining. Conflicts also arise between the government and local communities, where the latter expect the former to protect citizens’ interests. This is a qualitative research that utilised participant observation (42 events observed), key informant interviews (44 key informants interviewed) and documentary search while the quantitative data was engaged with regards to statistics from the mining companies on employment and local spending issues. Through cross case analysis, the researcher noted the critical similarities and differences in activism patterns among the three sites. The researcher found that LCD and CSR are different but are practically linked hence the need to simultaneously address them in the country’s policy and legislative mining frameworks. The researcher proposes an LCD-CSR model which shows the key variables in the LCD discourse in Zimbabwe’s mining sector, linking LCD, CSR, politics (policies and laws), community activism and engagement processes as way of strengthening community activism on LCD matters.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.