FORMER defence minister Richwell Siamunene says the high poverty levels in the country can only reduce if those given the responsibility to run state owned institutions put Zambians at heart.
He says handled well, gold mining can help the country solve most of its current economic challenges.
Addressing the media in Choma, Siamunene said President Edgar Lungu’s mind was to empower the Zambians.
“The high poverty levels in the country can only reduce if those given the responsibility to run state owned institutions put Zambians at heart first by empowering citizens and not themselves, the managers. Often times the President has demonstrated but those people that have been given responsibility you find that they do something else because they are not able to read the mind of the Head of State,” Siamunene said.
He challenged those running state institutions to be image builders of the President by ensuring that his aspirations of empowering citizens did not end as mere rhetoric but a reality.
Siamunene cited the ongoing debate on gold mining as a great opportunity where Zambians must be recognized as potential participants in their own development.
He said Zambia should not always look for outsiders to drive the country’s economy.
“We can only develop this country if the locals are empowered, that’s when this country can move from where it is now to its peak. Without the empowerment of the indigenous people, we will still remain in this state. Unless there is a deliberate move to empower the Zambians that’s when we can see the manifestation of wealth within our communities or society,” Siamunene said.
He urged Zambians to introspect on happenings in the mining sector particularly on KCM and Mopani Copper Mines.
“We thank President Edgar Lungu for standing firm for Zambians. What we should always remember is that foreign investors come for one principle, which is to make profit and not to empower locals. But if it is Zambian companies, they will also consider the effects on the economy. Look at these giant mines, anything that happens there is an impact on the economy of the country,” he said. “We must learn from the past mistakes and had it not been that we have a good government, which intervenes and says ‘no you cannot do this’ their [foreign mining firms’] mindset is just to make profit. These foreign investors come for one thing which is profit and if there is no profit they can’t stay.”
Siamunene urged ZCCM-IH to consider empowering locals with shares other than selling them to foreign investors.
“If Zambians are empowered with shares in mining sector the country will have power to dictate what we want unless there is something else compelling ZCCM-IH beyond what is known to have an outside partner or investor in the much talked about gold mining. Otherwise I feel they should consider Zambians for this cause,” he said. Meanwhile, Siamunene said the country had relied so much on the mines that the economy had been so tied to the extraction of metals.
“Now we need to focus on diversification and that only happens if you have the money. So if Zambians are given the opportunity to buy shares in the mines when it makes profits they can inject resources into other sectors like agriculture and others thereby stabilizing our economy but foreigners will not invest here,” he said.
Siamunene said if handled well gold mining can help the country solve its current economic challenges.
“This is an opportunity now to uplift the livelihood of Zambians. But as a country, we don’t have laws yet that restricts investors from taking money outside instead of investing in the host country,” observed Siamunene. “We need our country to stabilise and this gold thing can stabilise the kwacha. We need to take advantage of this opportunity to strength the kwacha. There is need to sit down as a country and decide which way to go with the gold mining than hastily doing things because the country will still remain in poverty. So the only way for us as a country to come out of this poverty is to empower the Zambia people because when they are empowered they will traditionally first invest within the country. That means wealth will trickle down to the ordinary men and women who are living in abject poverty.”