UPND deputy spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa has revealed that energy minister Matthew Nkhuwa and Chembe PF member of parliament Sebastian Kopulande are stranded with over one million litres of fuel they imported into the country during the time Indeni Oil Refinery was on a four months “man-made” shut down.
Mweetwa has challenged Nkhuwa to deny that he is involved in the corrupt fuel procurement.
The minister, however, did not pick calls and in some instances cut them when reached for comment.
Briefing the press on Monday, Mweetwa, who is Choma Central UPND member of parliament and African Parliamentary Network Against Corruption chairperson, said the corruption that had taken a foothold in the Ministry of Energy could not continue unchallenged.
He said Indeni had been shut down for four months to create a window of opportunity for some PF ministers and members of parliament and their cohorts to import fuel and make money dubiously.
He noted that in the last two years, Indeni had not undergone routine maintenance because of the recently procured components and other equipment.
Mweetwa explained that on March 18, a maintenance shutdown was effected on Indeni and government told the nation that the refinery was going to be closed for 45 days.
“Later, the same government went back to Indeni and told Indeni that they are supposed to open within 30 days to avert a fuel shortage and as of 20th April, Indeni was ready to reopen and begin functioning normally. Information reaching APNAC (African Parliamentary Network Against Corruption) desk indicates that that shut down was extended for another three months in order to allow corrupt deals in the smuggling and importation of fuel into Zambia to flourish,” Mweetwa said.
He explained that since Indeni was ready to reopen, on April 20, the government conveniently told the refinery that it did not have US $70 million to pay the suppliers to release crude for Indeni to begin to function.
Mweetwa said the government only paid the suppliers last week [of June] and the first batch of crude oil arrived at Indeni last Friday.
“As we speak, the crude oil has been stabilising and Indeni is ready to open its functions today Monday or tomorrow Tuesday (yesterday). But during this window when Indeni was closed, the PF government has unprecedentedly allowed briefcase oil traders masquerading as OMCs to import finished products into Zambia and lifted or gave a waiver to the requirement that for a company to import or bring in fuel into Zambia, they should have their own storage facilities,” Mweetwa said. “This time the Ministry of Energy waived that requirement so that their people can now be the ones to supply fuel into Zambia while they continue to close Indeni; a deliberate move to close Indeni so that they import fuel. And in the process, I am aware of a PF minister who now is stranded with a lot of fuel that he is looking for market for it. I am also aware of a member of parliament for PF who is stranded with thousands (350,000), the Minister stranded with 700,000 of fuel. They are now looking for market because Indeni is opening today or tomorrow because their [imported] fuel was more expensive than the fuel, which was coming from Indeni. And during this shut down, Indeni has lost between K4 billion to K6 billion.”
Mweetwa said there was anxiety and fear that with the PF government’s insatiable appetite to benefit anywhere, viable companies such as Indeni might be threatened.
He urged government to assure Indeni workers and Zambians that the highly profitable refinery would continue to operate as a going concern.
Mweetwa recalled that Indeni declared to the IDC K32 million in dividends in 2018 and K52m in 2019.
He wondered how a company that was declaring dividends could be shut down for four months.
Mweetwa urged the government to consider a dividend holiday for Indeni to allow it to recapitalise.
He challenged Nkhuwa to deny that there was no corruption in the procurement of fuel and that he is not involved.
Asked who the MP and minister were, Mweetwa mentioned Kopulande and Nkhuwa.
But Nkhuwa could not pick calls when reached and in some instances cut the call.
But Kopulande denied ever importing any “drop” of fuel in his life.
He said he was shocked over the report by Mweetwa, whom he described as a very reasonable man.
“I don’t know what he is talking about. I have never imported a drop of fuel in my whole life,” he said.
Asked if Mweetwa was lying, Kopulande responded: “I can’t imagine, no, he is a reasonable man…I don’t know which Chainama case gave him that story. Yeah, he is a reasonable man, he is a lawyer, he should have asked me whether I have imported fuel. I am surprised, I am shocked, honourable Kopulande imported fuel? From where, what fuel and what quantities?”
“I think I will call him and find out…I think that is a seriously troubled mind that gave him that story. I don’t think he created it, I don’t think he is a troubled mind, he is a very reasonable person,” said Kopulande.