By Gershom Ndhlovu
As most Zambians with internet access may be aware, a document entitled “Undermining Zambia” is doing the rounds on the web regarding the activities of privatised mines.
In it, former Finance Minister Edith Nawakwi admits that the government was arm-twisted into selling the mines by the IMF.
Christian Aid, one of the report’s authors, has drafted a letter for members of the public to send to the owners of KCM to change the way they operate.
In the introduction to the letter which Christian Aid urges people to e-mail to UK-based Vedanta Resources, it says Zambia’s copper riches, ought to be helping lift people out of poverty. Yet it (Zambia) remains one of the poorest countries on earth, while foreign companies reap the benefits instead.
Below is the template of the letter which can be accessed at http://www.christianaid.org.uk/stoppoverty/powercorruption/actions/zambia.aspx.
“Dear Mr Dhanpal Jhaveri,
As the majority-owner of KCM - Zambia’s largest copper company - Vedanta Resources has an important role to play in the economic and social wellbeing of one of the poorest countries on earth.
I would urge you to read and implement the recommendations of the recent report Undermining Development? published by SCIAF, ACTSA and Christian Aid, and supported by a wide range of Zambian organisations, that will improve staff conditions and allow the Zambian government to improve the country’s infrastructure, thus making a real difference to the lives of people gripped by poverty. On contract renegotiation:
Pay a fairer, increased amount of revenue to the Zambian government. As part of this, pay mineral royalties of at least 3%.
Make public the amounts paid to the Zambian government and all documents related to the development agreements. On the environment / local communities:
Keep pollutant levels within World Health Organisation guidelines
Publish details of pollutant levels from KCM activities. On working conditions:
Pay KCM employees and sub-contracted workers a wage that is sufficient to support a family, and sufficient to provide a pension that can support them after retirement.
Improve terms, conditions and health & safety for KCM employees and sub-contracted workers and ensure that these are implemented by contract firms.
Look forward to hearing from you.”
UK-based Zambian economist, Chola Mukanga, writing on his New Zambia blog, like many other Zambians, is not impressed with Nawakwi’s excuse on the whole mining privatisation process.
Writes Mukanga: “Edith Nawakwi, trying to shift the blame to the IMF, but only succeeding in making herself sound incompetent.
“The 'devil made me do it' has never got anyone off a crime. For indeed it appears that we came under pressure from young graduates at the IMF and World Bank who spent one week in Zambia and flashed a few models on the table and we crumbled.”
Meanwhile in neighbouring DR Congo, Bloomberg reports that a government panel in that country will recommend 61 of the nation’s agreements with mining companies, including Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc, be renegotiated or cancelled, the group’s chairman said.The commission will recommend that 38 contracts be changed, including those of Freeport and Nikanor plc, Alexis Mikandji, chairman of the commission for the review of mining contracts, said recently.
The panel also recommends that 23 contracts should be cancelled altogether.
The DRC, which has about 10% of the world’s copper reserves and a third of its cobalt, established the panel in April to review all mining deals, with the aim of amending those deemed unfair to the state.
It is a shame, really, that citizens of resource rich countries like Zambia and its neighbour, DR Congo should wallow in poverty and underdevelopment at the expense of investors and local politicians who do not give a hoot about them.
At least Congolese president Joseph Kabila is moving in the right direction in the way mineral resources are exploited in his country.
Zambia, with the same mineral composition as DRC, should do the same as a matter of urgency. Mistakes have been made in the past, but that does not mean they cannot be corrected.