Zimbabwe intends to sabotage UN Rotterdam Convention in order to protect asbestos industry

Wed, May 1, 2013


Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada.ca, May 1, 2013

Both Zimbabwe and Russia will, for the first time, be attending the Rotterdam Convention Conference of the Parties in Geneva as parties to the Convention. Previously, they attended as observers, but both have now ratified the Convention.

Both Zimbabwe and Russia intend to use their new status as parties to the Convention as a means to sabotage the Convention by preventing the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance, when, on May 7, the issue is put before the 170 countries attending the conference.

Both countries are close political allies of the asbestos industry. Russia is the biggest exporter of asbestos in the world, representing about 75% of global export. Zimbabwe hopes to re-open its asbestos mines and restart exporting asbestos. Both want to export asbestos, while covering up the fact that it is hazardous.

As well as the usual government and embassy representatives, the Zimbabwe delegation to the Geneva conference includes five members of the Zimbabwe National Chrysotile Taskforce (see list below). Both the Vice Chairman of Turnall Holdings Limited and the Chief Executive Officer of SMM Holding Limited, who also sits on Turnall Holdings, are members of the Zimbabwe delegation.

Mr. Darlington Musarurwa, Business Editor of the Zimbabwe Sunday Mail is a member of the National Chrysotile Taskforce and is also a member of the Zimbabwe government delegation.

Mr. Musarurwa acts more like a public relations agent for Turner Holdings and the Zimbabwe asbestos industry, than as an independent journalist.

In an article in the April 28, 2013 Sunday Mail about the Rotterdam Convention conference, Dark cloud hovers over asbestos, SMM (Shabanie Mashaba Mines) revival in focus, Decision to determine future of asbestos trading, Mr Musarurwa promotes the views of Zimbabwe government politicians, the International Chrysotile Association and the chairperson of the National Chrysotile Taskforce, Ms Abigail Shoniwa, who is also Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

Ms Shoniwa is cited in the article stating “despite the international lobby against chrysotile, the future of the industry in Zimbabwe is strong as local demand remains solid.”

In his article, Mr. Musarurwa reports that the Government of Zimbabwe will oppose the listing of chrysotile asbestos:

The fate of thousands of workers hoping for the revival of Shabanie Mashaba Mines (SMM), including the future trade of asbestos — principally produced by listed industrial concern Turnall Holdings — might ultimately be determined at a crucial international meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, next week.

Presently, there is an active and aggressive lobby by European countries and some of their proxy companies in Africa to list chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance whose trading needs to be closely monitored and ultimately banned.

However, Government is confident that the campaign will falter as Zimbabwe, which will vote against the move, will for the first time attend the meeting — the 6th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Rotterdam Convention to be held from May 7 to May 10 — as party after having deposited instruments of ratification of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, the globe’s three leading chemicals and waste treaties, effective May 30 last year.

Mr. Musarurwa does not disclose the fact that he is actually attending the Rotterdam Convention conference, along with Ms Shoniwa, as a member of the Zimbabwe government delegation. Neither does he disclose the fact that he is a member of the National Chrysotile Taskforce, along with Ms Shoniwa.

Mr. Musarurwa’s article includes no information from reputable scientific organisations regarding the hazards of asbestos. Instead, he puts forward the usual asbestos industry propaganda, referring to a possible “conspiracy by well-organised groups of activists”, who wish to replace asbestos with other products in order to “help rake in a fortune”.

Mr. Musarurwa cites the discredited asbestos lobby group, the International Chrysotile Association: “Further, it has not always been scientifically proven that replacement fibres, the uses of which are encouraged by international lobbies, are safer than chrysotile fibres,” said the ICA in a paper circulated before next week’s meeting.

In February 2013, over a hundred scientists from thirty countries issued a Statement  “condemning in the strongest possible terms the dangerous misinformation that the International Chrysotile Association disseminates”.

It is an international scandal that Russia and Zimbabwe intend to continue the criminal practice of covering up the hazards of asbestos.

The following five persons are members of the Zimbabwe National Chrysotile Taskforce and members of the Zimbabwe government delegation:

1. Mr. Shame Chibvongodze, Secretary, Zimbabwe National Chrysotile Taskforce

2. Mr. John A. Jere, Managing Director, Zimbabwe National Chysotile Taskforce

3. Mr. Prince James Mutizwa, Vice Chairman, Turnall Holdings Limited, National Chrysotile Taskforce

4. Mr. Chirandu Dhlembeu, Chief Executive Officer, SMM Holding Limited, National Chrysotile Taskforce

5. Mr. Darlington Musarurwa, Business Editor, The Sunday Mail, National Chrysotile Taskforce


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