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Just Politics; by Aaron Ng’ambi: in the fight for gold ownership, let’s not forget the emerald mines

There is a significant paradigm shift in the way that many Zambians are thinking today. In fact, the recent developments involving the discovery of gold in Mwinilunga has amplified and exposed this drastic change in the way our people are beginning to see things.

The on-going and contentious debates surrounding the ownership of this gold, either to be owned by the Zambian people or the Sudanese cannot be ignored by anyone. First of all, let me commend all the non-governmental organisations, individuals and ordinary citizens who have taken a keen interest in this matter by coming together to speak with one voice in opposition to the government’s misplaced proposal on this gold ownership. Now, before some disgruntled fellows think that we are anti-foreign investment, let us be clear that generally we are a people who still think that foreign investment is vital and it should be encouraged, but it must be sought after wisely. But at the same time, we know that Zambia is in much need of changing its mindset and redirect our conversations from focusing so much on outside investment to local direct investment. Thus, the discussions surrounding this issue of gold ownership is a good example of what the people of Zambia want and deserve. This government knows that there are citizens of this country who have the expertise in mining, whom they can engage to make sure that our country gets the most out of this discovered gold. For example, Dr Sixtus Mulenga of Kalulushi would be a great fit to engage over this issue. Unfortunately, our incompetent government has opted for some Sudanese company to take up shares in this venture at the expense of empowering its own people.

In response to this pathetic move by the PF government concerning the Mwinilunga gold rush, the public has spoken with a united voice against the Sudanese company who are in the country as investors. As much as I appreciate this retaliation from the Zambian people who are pushing back on these useless attempts by the government, and ZCCM-IH to give away such a precious mineral resource, I wish to remind my fellow countrymen and women to also take interest and initiate a process that will address a similar situation regarding Emerald mines in Lufwanyama district and other districts on the Copperbelt Province. Any well-informed Zambia who is or has lived on the Copperbelt Province knows for a fact that we have over 100 Emerald mines on this province alone. However, most of these mines, if not all, are in the hands of foreigners, including but not limited to Senegalese and Israelis. I think that it is appropriate for us to remind ourselves and those among us who happen to have a short memory, that we once had a vice-president of Zambia who was very vocal about the corruption that he alleged was going on at these Emerald mines on the Copperbelt. It was Dr Nevers Mumba, who pledged to clean up the emerald mining sector, and personally visited Kagem Emerald Mine and other emerald mining companies in the area. After that visit, we never heard a word from the then vice-president concerning his earlier allegations in the emerald mining sector, which only makes one wonder what led to the sudden silence. Also, in 2008 during the presidential by-election which was precipitated by the death of President Mwanawasa, the then opposition leader, Mr Sata, alluded to the fact that Zambia was endowed with so much mineral wealth including, emeralds and other gemstones. In that television interview, Mr Sata compared Zambia’s poverty in a country that has so many precious stones, with Bostwana, a country so well off but only has diamonds. If I am not mistaken, Mr Sata even suggested that the problem with the emerald mines on the Copperbelt was that they were all in foreign hands, thereby not able to fully benefit Zambians. The irony though is that regardless of what our leaders have said about the problem of emerald mines on the Copperbelt, none of them has come through on any of their pronouncements, not even Mr Sata as President of Zambia. Therefore, I am convinced that if anything is to be done about this profitable enterprise of emerald mining, the ordinary people of Zambia have to show outrage, just as they have done so concerning the case of gold mining in Mwinilunga.

To say that Zambians have now woken up from slumber is an understatement, because we are not afraid of the government or anyone who seeks to take advantage of us. Our people will not accept or entertain outsourcing gold processing in a joint venture with a foreign company, knowing too well that we have other mineral resources in this country that are being exploited by foreigners. As we fight for Zambians to own the gold mining, let us not forget about the precious stones on the Copperbelt and other parts of the country, because now is the time for us to make right the wrongs and deeds of the previous generations. This government should learn that all major economies in the world have fully developed by and largely due to local or domestic direct investment, with foreign investment only playing a supplementary role. If you look at the United State of America, the government gives heavy subsidies to small and local business as well as giving bailout money to huge corporations in times of difficulty. These businesses are owned by local people, and some of these huge corporations that have been bailed out with taxpayer’s money are owned by Americans. Even the case of the People’s Republic of China which happens to be a close friend and ally of the Patriotic Front (PF) government, the communist party of China has its overreaching hand in almost, if not all, Chinese businesses at home and abroad, thus supporting local direct investment on a broader scale. If you support local businesses and encourage domestic investment, the people who run these enterprises will know that this is their home and they are here to stay. Hence, you create a situation for fast growth, steady and permanent economic growth. Unlike if you concentrate your efforts on solely supporting foreign investment, those who come in the country for merely profit making may not have the interest at heart and foresight as the locals, because after they have accumulated wealth and made their profit share, they have no obligation to stay in the country no more.

Email; aaronngambi@yahoo.com

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