Dr Fred M’membe says mining “is very sensitive politically” and that it has been sensitive from the very beginning.
“Our first coloniser, John Cecil Rhodes, was a capitalist businessman with his company the British South Africa Company (BSA). Cecil Rhodes anali kusakila chani kuno (what was Cecil Rhodes looking for here)? Anali kusakila ma minerals (he was looking for minerals)! We were colonised for minerals in 1891 and we are still being colonised for minerals in 2019. If we nationalise those mines now, we’ll run them down in no time. [Privatisation] is not the way to go – we are socialists. The ideal position is to pass on all the key means of production in the hands of the working class, collectively.”
But he warned that if we nationalised the mines now we would run them down.
“We don’t have enough mineral scientists, mining engineers, we don’t even have mining economists, the legal expertise required to run mines; we don’t have even the skills required to market the minerals we have mined,” he cautioned.
“We may just have to leave the current mines the way they are owned and ensure that we collect fair taxes and pump those taxes into peasant agriculture, education and health. Moreover, only one third of our mining potential is under exploitation – we still have two thirds to exploit.”
Indeed, mining is very politically sensitive and complicated to manage. A lot of thinking and cool heads are needed when it comes to mining.
And this is the sober and cool headedness we needed to see in the handling of KCM by this government.
Placing KCM in liquidation will soon prove very costly for this government.
When they took over KCM they found only K600,000 in the bank accounts. Vedanta was bringing in money from abroad every month to pay salaries and some suppliers. After KCM was placed in liquidation they had no reason to bring in money for salaries and other expenses. The Zambian government had to immediately pump in US $35 million for salaries and payments to suppliers. Pumping out water and just keeping the mines safe requires millions of dollars to spent be every month. Where is the Zambian government going to find that type of money from every month until the mines are sold?
It may take long to find a buyer because the ownership contest is likely to take long. The owners of KCM are likely not going to walk away so quickly. They can manipulate the Zambian courts to get outcomes they want but this matter won’t end here. The owners of KCM are going to seek legal redress in other jurisdictions. Who will buy a mine whose ownership is still being contested?
And the Chinese who could easily bail them out are not wanted by the miners and their unions.
This is indeed jumping from frying pan into fire and from fire into frying pan!
Cleary, those who were criticising the government’s approach were not doing so out hatred or jealousy. And those who were praising and cheering the government’s approach to the problems of KCM will be embarrassed.