Halt the dangerous madness in the entire mining sector, nationalise it and free Zambia from debt, underdevelopment and poverty
By Azwell Banda
Unwittingly, Liswaniso Gilbert, UPND national youth chairman, perfectly exposed what is happening to our mineral sector under the UPND government when he proudly announced on radio, without much prompting, that he got free shares in a heavily contested mining company.
Liswaniso is an intelligent young man, and probably still desperately clings on to some moral principles. He is an important and very persuasive and influential leader in the UPND and country. His leadership position exposes him to a massive traffic of information about the goings on inside the UPND government and party, and our economy, especially the mineral sector of Zambia. Liswaniso’s confession about “his” unsavoury free shares must be understood in this context; no matter how “innocent” he believes he is.
Hakainde Hichilema and his minister of mines, Paul Kabuswe, do not tire preaching to us that it is better to resolve the crises in our key copper mines outside courts; clearly in secret boardroom negotiations. As I write this, Glencore, a natural resources multinational with an extensive global footprint in mining including in Zambia, is reported by Bloomberg to have been ordered by a federal judge in New York, USA, to pay $700 million as a criminal punishment for a global bribery scheme orchestrated by the Swiss-based commodity trading and mining giant. Bloomberg adds that the penalty is one of the largest in a foreign corruption case, and it is part of the $1.5 billion Glencore agreed to pay to resolve bribery and market-manipulation probes in the US, UK and Brazil.
“Glencore units agreed to plead guilty to a list of charges ranging from bribery and corruption in South America and Africa, to price manipulation in US fuel-oil markets,” Bloomberg says.
These are the kind of people Hakainde Hichilema who has never been in government pretends we should trust him and his minister to secretly negotiate with on our national behalf, for our natural resources. Meanwhile, we are aware that the Patriotic Front freely acknowledged that in fact it received US $150,000 in three tranches from First Quantum Minerals (FQM) when in government, when the ACC called the PF, now out of government, to question it on these moneys from FQM, in its accounts. The PF freely volunteered that it was in fact their late treasurer Alexander Chikwanda who had negotiated for these moneys from FQM. FQM somehow wants us to believe that the ACC, who had called PF to account for these details in the PF political party accounts, did not actually see that the money came from an FQM account, but it could have been from someone who had done some businesses with FQM and donated to PF! FQM vowed to make the PF confirm the FQM account the money would have been released from. I certainly may have missed the announcement of this proof of innocence, of FQM.
We read in The Mail and Guardian, a British newspaper, that a lobbying firm “with deep roots to the Conservative Party” in Britain, CT Group, co-owned by Lynton Crosby, planned “secretive African campaigns” in the DRC and possibly Zambia, on behalf of FQM, for millions of British pounds. Some of this firm’s work in Zambia prior to the August 2021 elections is still active today. The lobbying firm established an online news website that it boasts has become “a recognised independent voice of authority”.
“The ‘Open Zambia’ website continues to publish articles. It describes itself as ‘Zambia’s only independent news source’ and heralds its role in ‘promoting transparency’. The site, which frequently carries articles favourable to First Quantum, does not disclose it was established by a London-based lobbying firm,” The Guardian newspaper says. A look at the latest copy of “Open Zambia” website (https://www.openzambia.com/politics) confirms all this, down to a fake, overblown, ridiculously inaccurate positive assessment of the UPND’s first 18 months in office!
A core strategy of such “political consultancies” is to fatally ruin the political character of the opponent of their client by the use of sophisticated media tools and resources, both nationally and internationally. We have seen that 19 months after HH and the UPND won elections, they cannot free themselves from their own mental saturation of the demonising messaging they used, to denounce the PF. Many Zambians are now fed up with the unending UPND 2021 election campaign messaging and mentality. They want to experience the over promised UPND “reduced cost of living and doing business”, rather than hearing about how corrupt the PF were, and how they messed up Zambia. It’s not happening.
On the other hand, in secret negotiations in boardrooms, we have seen how the multibillion police charges ZCCM-IH had filed with the police against FQM directors have “vanished”, and instead ZCCM-IH has effectively handed over all of Kansanshi copper-gold mine to FQM, for a miserable regular loyalty fee linked to FQM being refunded VAT receipts! The Zambian public have been feasted on the news of the “fruits” of the “negotiations” and “settlement” and not the actual verbatim record of negotiations, to judge for themselves whether Zambia has been swindled or not, by FQM.
It is almost certain that the UPND will insult our history with Vedanta, and hand over KCM to them. HH and his friends are bidding their time while secretly plotting Vedanta return. By their own admission freely available on the internet, Vedanta never had the money they lied they had when they offered to buy KCM, they cheated President Levy Mwanawasa, they fraudulently acquired KCM, they concealed massive profits which they pocketed, they polluted our rivers and soils, they concealed profits to avoid paying tax, they left a huge bill of unpaid suppliers, Zambian workers complained about them, and Vedanta was therefore running the mine to the ground. These uncouth crooks are still the same people HH is secretly negotiating with. In time, make no mistake about this, we shall come to know all the details of why and how the UPND would have insulted us thus, and returned the mine to Vedanta.
At the heart of all social and political chaos, violence and civil wars in post-colonial Africa just as elsewhere, lies the vicious competition and bloody struggles for ownership, control and management of land and other natural resources. More than 4.5 million people have died in the past 30 years in the DRC, one of the richest places on earth, and our longest bordering neighbour. At the heart of the conflicts in the DRC is state or government failure to justly and equitably manage land and other natural resources. Similar violence and social chaos is playing out in northern Mozambique, our neighbour too. In Mozambique as in the DRC, it is the question of who, how and why natural resources benefit others and exclude some. We deceive ourselves if we think we are a unique people, we Zambians, and therefore are incapable of descending into social chaos and mass violence of all kinds.
Time is running out fast, especially now that it is clear the IMF will not deliver on the debt restructuring programme and life is becoming intolerably unbearable for the majority of Zambians. A genuine patriotic Zambian government, rooted in the mass of our people and not advancing the interests of a tiny criminal lying, thieving, corrupt, tribalist and fake rich coterie, would not hesitate to declare a state of national economic and social emergence and disaster, to enable government respond to the many urgent needs confronting the vast majority of suffering Zambians.
Rather than pretend that a fictitious “private sector” will in time address the dangerous levels of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, unemployment and inequalities affecting the majority of Zambians, such a government would use the state of emergence and national disaster to, among other things, nationalise our land and minerals sector and other strategic sectors and industries, in order to lay the foundation for national renewal, transformation and development. For themselves and the future of their children and our country, many current suffering ordinary Zambians would be willing to make massive sacrifices this time around, in order to create an economy and government that works for the vast majority of Zambian people and not just a selfish, lying, thieving, corrupt, and tribalist tiny section and its foreign backers.
Many Zambians are now aware that their main enemy is in fact at home; right here in Zambia – the lying, thieving, fake promising, corrupt, tribalist politician and “dealers” who have collapsed Zambia’s economy, amassed a massive debt, and now want to reduce Zambia into a five yearly alternating feeding trough among themselves.
Only such a government, supported by, and firmly rooted in the real interests of the vast majority of Zambians and therefore genuinely democratic, fully educated about lessons from the past, armed with resources from nationalised strategic economic sectors, would release the infinite amount of Zambian human talent and capacity to create, and combined with our natural resources, transform our economy, state and society to lay the basis for a qualitatively different, prosperous and peaceful future for Zambia.
There has never been a better global geo-political and economic climate to achieve this kind of genuine political and economic breakthrough, and independence, than now, for consciously impoverished neo-colonies like Zambia.
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And we even have a successful model next door.
How are state companies performing? Zesco, Zamtel? The government should stay away from running businesses and focus on running the country.
Our politicians donot have the discipline to allow state companies to operate independently.
We ran ZCCM into the ground. So this talk of nationalizing the mines is hogwash. PF was running KCM, what good came out of it? They completely destroyed it. Now we are talking about giving it back to Vedanta.
It’s laughable how we the citizens of Zambia allow our leaders to negotiate everything on our behalf and then to just be told this is what was agreed.
The $14 Billion dollar debt we keep talking about is nothing compared to the amount of lost revenue from the mining activities both legal and illegal!
Zambia has enough mineral wealth to dig itself out of debt!
We just need a Magufuli to do it for Zambia!