(By Chambwa Moonga in Chingola)
HARRY Kalaba says amid the economic deprivation and misrule that the PF government is perpetuating, Zambians have to overtly say “not this nonsense”.
And Kalaba, the Bahati PF member of parliament, has observed that as long as there is complicity between Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Chingola and PF government leaders, there will be no solution to the predicament of the mine’s unpaid suppliers and contractors.
Kalaba, the 2021 presidential aspirant, said during a special interview programme on I-Wave radio in Chingola on Saturday that: “Come 2021, let’s all stand up and vote out the PF from government.”
“The PF leadership has shown us that its main preoccupation of being in the government is to tend to personal pockets. They don’t care about citizens’ plight and do they expect that we will just be watching them do as they please? No! Just because I was elected as a member of parliament on the PF ticket, I shouldn’t offer checks and balances to the government? I wasn’t elected as a Bahati member of parliament to go to Parliament to be hero-worshipping someone. I was elected to speak for the under-privileged and this is what I’m doing now,” Kalaba explained, alternating between English and Icibemba.
“If we don’t speak for the poor people here in Chingola, who will speak for them? KCM is having the last laugh. So, we have to stand up and say ‘not this nonsense,’ it is too much. So, I’m serving notice on KCM that they can get away with it today but I can tell them that tashichela mumo inshiku (days are numbered). I’m feeling the pain of our people.”
KCM is currently struggling to pay its suppliers and contractors. He stressed that the people of Chingola, a mining town, could not “be yoked to a heavy load of poverty just because KCM management is colluding with PF leaders”.
“When PF leaders enjoy sausages, do such sausages automatically transfer to the tummy of a poor person in Chiwempala? It doesn’t happen and so, let’s begin to be serious with issues. You have been used enough;” Kalaba said.
“In Chingola, if you aren’t employed by the mine, if you are not a district commissioner or if you are not an intelligence officer, then you are doomed! That’s the plight that is here and we have to re-strategise and get more serious as a people. You used to proudly say ‘Chingola is the cleanest town in Zambia’ but look at the dilapidated state of township roads here now! What’s in Chingola now? Nothing. There is too much poverty here in Chingola.”
He reiterated that KCM was neglecting to pay its suppliers and contractors because some PF government leaders were conspiring with the mine giant’s management for bribes.
“Those who are supposed to be speaking on ordinary people’s behalf are dining with KCM management,” Kalaba regretted.
“What is supposed to be done is to tell KCM that it’s too much of underperformance and if you continue with this attitude, it’s better you leave. You saw that the Head of State (Edgar Lungu) was here a few days ago. But who was facilitating his programme here? It’s KCM and they provided most of the logistics – including the boardroom. So, how do you even expect KCM to pay contractors and suppliers when government leaders are dining with them? Where do you get the audacity to reprimand them? These are jokes; jokes in governance have to be curtailed because people are suffering while others are dying.”
He said since Chingola’s economy was anchored on the operations of KCM, he wondered how the economic state of the area could look like when “contractors and suppliers are not being paid”.
“Some members of parliament and some top PF officials are the major suppliers to KCM… There is an English adage which says that do not be too friendly with the bird you are going to eat. So, it’s the same with what is happening at KCM. You cannot reprimand KCM management when their company is what bankrolls your political campaigns,” he said while lamenting the “anaemic” kind of corporate social responsibility being offered by KCM in Chingola.
“When you compare the corporate social responsibility of the defunct ZCCM (Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines) with what KCM is doing today, you will realise that the corporate social responsibility that ZCCM was giving was very dense. But KCM’s corporate social responsibility is very anaemic because they are saving the money which they are supposed to use for corporate social responsibility and that money is diverted into the pockets of political leaders. We have to stop this rot.”
He said the government would have already acted on KCM had the leaders not been getting kickbacks from the mining company.
“KCM is not the only company that is doing mining in this country. Barrick Lumwana, Kansanshi and Kalumbila are all doing mining but why is it that there are no pronounced reports of unpaid contractors and suppliers in the mines in North-Western Province? But what is so special about KCM that every time they are the ones who should be giving us headaches? The only thing that is special about KCM is that they are eating with leaders in the PF government. That’s all,” Kalaba explained.
“We are reading about reports of mine accidents at KCM where a person reportedly dies per month. Why aren’t miners dying at Lumwana Mine, for instance? It’s because mining safety is up-to-standard there. At KCM they have out-sourced labour but I have always said that out-sourcing of labour is not the right way to go in mining because it compromises mining safety. How can it be that people are dying quietly because of compromised mining safety, especially in the last four months? We are trivialising human life. Our hero, Mr Sata wanted to develop this country but his desire couldn’t be actualised because the cold arm of death found him. But even if he is dead, some of us have remained and we won’t allow the dirt that has begun to show itself to reign everywhere.”
When asked for how long he would ride on the Harry Kalaba Movement to prop-up his 2021 presidential bid, Kalaba, the former foreign affairs minister, said the Movement would live on.
“There are currently more than 50 political parties in Zambia. So, why would I form another political party? For what? There are already about 10 political parties which have invited me to stand in 2021 on their party. So, the Harry Kalaba Movement will continue for as long as it should continue until we see how the Democratic Party goes about with its court case. All that the people of Chingola and indeed Zambia have to know is that I’m going to contest as a presidential candidate in 2021,” said Kalaba who later in the day held a series of membership mobilisation meetings within Chingola.