Operationalizing international law principles governing state sovereignty over mineral resources: the case of Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
The well-worn paradox of the resource curse has not yet been thoroughly examined through the lens of international law principles governing state sovereignty over mineral resources, and how these principles have been operationalized in developing African states. Africa is richly endowed with an array of mineral resources but the development of the continent as a whole and of individual states has not been concomitant with this resource endowment. Although international law provides African states with the mandate to regulate and derive benefits from exploitation of their mineral resources, they do not appear to be working within this mandate in a manner that ensures the flow of benefits in a sustainable and equitable way. The international law mandate to regulate and derive benefits from mineral resources is however multi-faceted. The thesis identifies three key international law principles which support state sovereignty over mineral resources; namely, self-determination, non-interference (non-intervention) and permanent sovereignty over natural resources (PSNR). Along with the right to development, these principles provide a solid basis in international law for African states to capitalize on their mineral resources in a developmental way. The realpolitik of mineral extraction, however, requires that African states court investment and establish trade relations. This expands the mandate to regulate and derive benefits from mineral resources to include principles of international investment and trade law, which relate to state sovereignty over mineral resources in ambiguous ways. Additionally, various overarching issues and threats such as corruption, illegal mining and conflict situations arise and host states have to navigate them in order to assert their mandate and sovereignty over mineral resources for selfdetermination and development. How states navigate this complex space through their authority to determine and implement domestic mineral laws is a question worthy of consideration. Two case studies, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) illustrate the multi-faceted ways in which African states use (and fail to use) their domestic laws in a manner that allows them to benefit from the international law mandate in support of self-determination and development.
The thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the degree DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in the School of Law of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa April 2015