By Gershom Ndhlovu
This week I reproduce some of the reactions I received on the article “Undermining Zambia” and the exchange that took place between the readers.
Nice E wrote: “I couldn't agree more with your observation. Much as the "Undermining Zambia" reports, as well as Mr Michael Sata’s recent presentation on China are factual, it seems there's an increasing and worrying trend for Zambians in general to cry out to or blame foreigners for their problems at home.
Just like Mr Sata, Edith Nawakwi and Co. are dissociating themselves from their incompetent and mostly corrupt practices that led to this situation in the first place. These people were at the helm of a corrupt government not long ago that refused to sell the mines for a song but later sold them for far less! Shouldn't Zambians have put pressure on their own government for answers?Fact is, it is much easier for Zambians and NGOs to pressurise foreign companies originating from democratic countries, than it is to pressurise the Zambian government itself! I am yet to see a petition to the Zambian government for any of the genuine grievances people have against the government.On the issue of crying to foreigners, not long ago Zambian authorities and NGOs lobbied the G8 night and day for debt cancellation. I won't go into how Zambia got into this debt in the first place, but the amount of energy that was put into this debt cancellation lobbying was unprecedented, which was a good thing. However, I would just like to see the same sort of effort go into fighting corruption and issues of governance as well.Let us remember that the ultimate responsibility to develop the lives of a country's citizens lies NOT with NGOs, but with the respective government. And as one saying goes, a nation gets the leadership it deserves!”
Another reader signing himself as MrK wrote: “I would like to make a few comments. 1) The 3%. It is a little more than the 0.6%, but it is still ridiculously low and won't make much of a difference. Considering that their gross profit margins are around 60% (as in case of Equinox), 3% is not a big deal. Now, if that was 30%, it would still leave the mining companies with half of the profits. It would also be helpful if the mining companies were obligated to get a minimum number of workers locally, and the same for suppliers. That way, most of their 40% in costs could be spent locally and would stimulate the economy. 2) The environmental and labour conditions should go without question. 3) Sue the IMF for loss of income. Thinking of the billions of dollars that have been lost, they should take some of the billions of dollars in gold and compensate Zambia for the terrible advice and coercion they exercised toward the then government of Zambia. 4) Gershom, what do you make of all the claims that these agreements cannot be renegotiated? Who are the people making these claims?”
Nice E writes in support of bringing back "Zambianisation", as in putting quota limits on jobs going to foreigners, a practice which Middle Eastern countries are good at.On suing the IMF, he thinks that that is a very long shot, realistically a non-starter. “Zambia would probably lose more in that lawsuit. Claiming 'coercion' is one thing, while proving it would be quite another. I partly blame the "yes bwana" mentality. People are more likely to take the advice of IMF 'interns' than local experts.”
He suggests making public the terms of these deals.
MrK also responds saying,
“There should be not only complete openness about the mining agreements, but also about the present renegotiation process. If you've read Magande and Shakafuswa's recent comments in The Post, they are now relying on a Norwegian delegation to do the negotiations for them. I hope the government understands that if they come up with another boondoggle, no one is going to accept the outcome of this 'renogotiation'."