An intense political controversy is currently raging all around Ghana about the alleged shortcomings, and outright malfeasance that has afflicted the implementation of the latest initiatives by government to stem the incidence of illegal small scale mining.
It is instructive that the initiative executed by Ghana’s military, dubbed Operation Vanguard has been found to be relatively free of malfeasance in its implementation while the initiative designed and applied by politicians, named Operation Galamstop has been implemented in a largely haphazard, indeed malfeasant manner.
Add to this the nature of the resultant ongoing controversy – which is being fought along partisan political lines rather than on the relevant socio-economic issues – and the situation seems to incontrovertibly confirm the assertions of a recent policy brief written by the University of Ghana Business School (see centerspread on pages 12 &13 of this edition) that it is politics, rather than socio-economics that is primarily driving the practice of illegal small scale mining in Ghana.
The policy brief accuses the political elite, traditional rulers and the local business class in the communities where it is practiced, of facilitating it in furtherance of their respective narrow interests. For instance, the politicians tolerate it to win the sympathy of local voters; the traditional rulers facilitate it because it generates substantial land sales proceeds for them; and the local business class encourage it because of the business support service and product supply opportunities it generates for them.
To be sure, most leaders of thought have been well aware of this for long; the problem has been how to deal with the situation considering the combined influence and authority these three types of power brokers can wield.
However, the latest, still ongoing controversy has added an even more disturbing element to this issue: the allegation that political parties – both those in power and those in opposition – actually take advantage of galamsey to make money with which to finance their political activities, particularly their election campaigns.
This is a still unproven allegation. However, cynics, based on the often self-serving behavior of Ghana’s political elite in other spheres of activity, assert that this is likely to be true, the thinking being that since they lack the political will to curb the practice they have decided to gain what they can out of it for themselves.
This newspaper charitably opts to give the political elite the benefit of the doubt concerning this allegation, at least until it is actually proven.
However, we agree with the UGBS assertion that the triumvirate of politicians, traditional rulers and local business people are driving the practice forward rather than curbing it as required of them.
We therefore call on the political class to put the national interest in this crucial matter before the political fortunes of their respective parties. Illegal small scale mining puts the sustainability of Ghana’s environment – and consequently the very existence of its populace – at risk, and this is far more important than the electoral fortunes of both major parties put together.
The politicians, using central, central and legislative governmental authority, are in position to stop the unethical – and illegal – activities of both traditional rulers and local community elites, if they can muster the political will and indeed this is part of the task, they signed up for by seeking elective or appointive office.
All that is required of them is the political will and the rest would be forced into proper place.
This is something that Ghana’s political elite owe the majority of the people they have so enthusiastically sworn oaths, at one time or the other, to serve and protect.