(By Oliver Chisenga, Chambwa Moonga and Mwaka Ndawa)
MWEBANANDI, abena Kopala, mwibepwa iyo, the PF government has no capacity to run a mine called KCM, Hakainde Hichilema has said. And Opposition Alliance chairman Charles Milupi says the Konkola Copper Mines liquidation is clearly a State House business with no human face. Speaking on ChatBack radio programme on Christian Voice yesterday, Hichilema said the PF had no capacity to run even a small slag dump because the treasury is bankrupt. He said the solution to KCM woes lay in finding a suitable and competent buyer. Hichilema warned that the PF were supporting a trader masquerading as a miner.
He said an investor’s mind was different from that of a short-term trader whose interest was devoid of wider interests, longer-term economic interest and sustainability.
“Please mwebanandi, abena Kopala mwibepwa iyo the PF government has no capacity to run a mine called KCM. Even a small slag dump they can’t mine. The PF has no capacity because the money is not there. The treasury is bankrupt and the solution lies in an approach that we in the UPND have and therefore protect the interest of these people, find a buyer, a suitable buyer, competent buyer and not a trader,” he said.
Hichilema said President Lungu rushed to the Copperbelt without thinking and announced the KCM take over.
Hichilema, a businessman, maintained that President Lungu should not have taken the liquidation route.
“For us, we have a mind of an investor, wider interest, longer term economic interest, jobs, businesses and also sustainability of a longer haul. That’s the distinction between PF and Lungu who tried to hide my Copperbelt visit and by the way he only went to the Copperbelt in response to my visit there. He was never interested in the mine situation and suppliers, job losses and late payment of salaries and to contractors and suppliers,” he said. “He was only interested in politicking on the Copperbelt till I went there and reminded him that he had a duty to solve a problem. He then rushed there without thinking and announced a takeover. You don’t do things like that. He should not have done a liquidation, and he should have gone through an administration….”
Hichilema wondered why the government through ZCCM-IH failed to deal with the issues surrounding KCM but waited until the ‘animal’ was about to die.
“We know that the mines need to be dewatered otherwise we will lose that investment, pumps will go down, we need dewatering, there is need for development of reserves. There is need for maintenance and capitalisation which has not happened…we are aware that the Konkola Deep Project is the future of KCM premised on successful completion of two major projects, Konkola Deep Mining Project (KDMP) and Nchanga smelter but this is not happening,” he noted. “…This was a very critical issue but why didn’t government through ZCCM-IH deal with these issues but wait until the animal is about to die? It’s because they are vultures.”
Hichilema lamented that jobs that must be done by Zambians at KCM were now in the hands of foreigners due to lack of skills management.
“Why was the government of Lungu, through ZCCM-IH, allowing these things in KCM to happen instead of skills transfer to Zambians and jobs being given to Zambians? KCM has been messed; workers have suffered for too long, abantu besu nabacula, bacula pafula,” he said. “Suppliers, children of miners are suffering and there is a lot of social dislocation, marriages are breaking amongst the mine communities and everybody depends on the mines directly or indirectly on the Copperbelt, and the whole economy.”
Hichilema said President Lungu and the PF have been irresponsible and behaving like vultures.
He furthered noted that President Lungu and the PF have put a friend with limited experience as a ‘provisional’ liquidator.
“Do they understand a liquidator’s skills and capabilities? And I hear Lungu’s advisors are now advising the liquidator. What advise are they rendering to him? This is a technical field. This is a field that requires soberness, requires a lot of knowledge, it requires a lot of experience, it requires a lot of deep mindedness but it’s not there,” Hichilema said. “What you will see is that there will be a lot of scavenges, they will scavenge on mine assets in the name of selling to recover money to pay miners and abusing the good name of workers.”
He advised mine unions to see through the PF scheme and be on the side of the people.
“Even if HH will be the last man standing, I will stand on the side of the people. PF knows that they have lost popularity. Mr Lungu knows that he will not win the 2021 elections and the only things keeping him in office are the police, security system, break down in the rule of law and corruption,” said Hichilema.
And Milupi said the opposition alliance finds it difficult to understand how the PF government over the years allowed KCM to be operated in a manner that clearly disadvantaged the Zambian interest.
He said workers of KCM had been disadvantaged with regard to their pay and conditions of service.
“The PF government is part and parcel of the historic mess in KCM. President Lungu can’t pretend that he has only now seen the need to intervene in the mess that is at KCM. It has been reported that Mr Lungu Milingo is the liquidator that President Lungu has appointed to liquidate KCM. We question his credibility and experience in managing and, or liquidating a large-scale mine the size of KCM,” Milupi said.
“The people in the liquidating team, such as Amos Chanda, Kaizer Zulu and other State House special assistants clearly shows that this liquidation is purely a State House business with no human face. Even though this process has been reported as liquidation with its attendant definition as shown by its shutdown, it has been reported that the operation of KCM shall still remain normal under liquidation. In the event that this liquidation team attempts to run the mine, we the Opposition Alliance feel and know for the fact that a team of this sort has no experience to run a large scale mining operation.”
Meanwhile, the Engineering Institution of Zambia says numerous shortcomings that inundated KCM must not be overlooked if the viability of the mining operation under the next investor is to be assured.
Briefing journalists at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka yesterday, Engineering Institution of Zambia (EIZ) president Sydney Matamwandi said the Institution had keenly followed the developments at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM).
Matamwandi was flanked by the Institution’s vice-presidents Eugene Haazele (in charge of policy, public relations and natural development) and William Mulusa (in charge of membership and continuous professional development).
He noted that after extensive consultations with its senior members: “who have extensive hands-on experience in mining”, the EIZ identified six serious shortcomings with the mining operations under the control of KCM.
Matamwandi named the six “serious” shortcomings as mine dewatering, development of reserves, capitalisation of plant and equipment, skills transfer and development, management and operational organisation and the Konkola Deep Mine Project (KDMP).
On mine dewatering, for instance, Matamwandi indicated that the process was an essential aspect in mining.
“[But] the available evidence indicates significant negligence of this operation by the mining company (KCM). The threats and consequences of this omission are detrimental to the mining operations as well as to safety,” Matamwandi said, adding that there was a serious backlog in the development of reserves at KCM.
“The consequence of this backlog has been a shortage of ore and feed into downstream operations, especially the smelters.”
On the capitalisation of the plant and equipment at the Vedanta Resources-owned mine, Matamwandi observed that, to a large extent, there was obsolete equipment, resulting into inefficiencies, high time and low output.
He lamented that KCM neglected skills transfer and development while heavily depending on expatriate personnel.
“This approach is unsustainable to the mine and the country at large,” he noted.
On the KDMP, Matamwandi explained that KCM neglected to complete the project, “resulting into serious shortage of feed into the smelter.”
“The completion of this project would have added significant value to the mining company while creating sustainable employment for our citizens. The current situation is regrettable,” said Matamwandi.
Meanwhile, KCM under liquidation has appointed Makebi Zulu Associates as its advocates in the winding up proceedings.
But Vedanta Resources Holdings Limited, the second intended respondent has also appointed Mulenga Mundashi Kasonde legal practitioners and Corpus Legal Practitioners as their lawyers.
This is in a matter where ZCCM-Investment Holding petitioned KCM for winding up the company pursuant to section 56 of the corporate insolvency Act.