THE Mine Workers’ Union of Zambia (MUZ) says government’s intention to buy 90 per cent shares in Mopani Copper Mines from Glencore will redeem the mine’s operations.
In an interview, MUZ president Joseph Chewe hailed government’s recent announcement of its intention to acquire Glencore’s 90 per cent shareholding in Mopani, saying the move will help resuscitate the mining company.
Chewe argued that unionised workers could no longer trust expatriates to run the company as it had continued to retrench workers.
“It’s Mopani who wants to put the mine on care and maintenance, how does nationalisation come in when it is Glencore, who is not willing to be in this country like they have done in Congo, South Africa they have also closed mines, they don’t want to be mining, they want to be trading. People promised that privatisation will bring good things, that it will bring jobs, mines will be (well) capitalised. The investor can no longer be trusted to run our mines. Look at Vedanta how they have ripped the mine, you will cry if you go to KCM (Konkola Copper Mines)! You will cry how they run down the mine and these are privatised mines,” Chewe said.
“What Mopani has done in the last 20 years of existence, they have sent more people into graves; they have sent more people into destitution than ZCCM. When we were working under ZCCM, there was job security; you will get a job until you retire if you are not dismissed on disciplinary issues. Mopani, yes, they have invested, but there has been no sustainability on jobs. It has been quarrel after quarrel! Even suppliers and contractors have been complaining, all the big contracts are going to South Africa and outside. So, who has been benefiting in Mopani?”
Chewe said the privatisation of mines had relegated Zambians to more suffering and poverty.
“That privatisation (process) made Zambia lose out and development retarded in terms of the mines that were privatised. So, we, the people on the ground, in terms of jobs, we have lost out. Have you heard any government institutions say, ‘they are going to put this institution on care and maintenance and retrenchment’ like what we have witnessed in the last 20 years? The World Bank and the IMF cheated this country that privatisation is going to work, it has never worked here. It is not government, but it is Glencore who wants to go. People are suffering here!” Chewe complained.
“What is important to know is what mistake did ZCCM make, for instance, government was getting more money from ZCCM operations that is how it collapsed. You remember Kaunda was getting money from KCM to build a bridge in Eastern Province, to build a bridge in Northern Province, government was getting money to pay students at UNZA and other projects, so that was the problem. Having known those mistakes, that is where we can work on those issues. Look at the Chinese mines, all the Chinese mines that we have in Zambia, Luanshya Mines, it is CNMC (China Nonferrous Metal Mining Company) and it is government; Chambeshi Mines is CNMC and it is a government institution. That is why China is rich, the money goes to government and not individuals.”
And he said that it was better for government to control mining companies as this would sustain miners’ livelihoods.
“People are not working, for instance, Mopani closed the central shaft and they also shut Mindolo North, but Copper is there, so what was the intention? Ill intention! We are far much better under a government watch because anyone who will be President they will be held accountable. Now, can you hold accountable where the owner is in Switzerland? He makes decisions that are not favourable for local Zambians that depend on that asset. So, they (government) are not nationalising, they are responding to what Glencore said. If they put the mine on care and maintenance, who are they killing? They have been killing people indirectly! Our bigger picture is our mines running properly. So, if they start closing the mines, how will our children learn? What is important is that we need to protect jobs. The Chinese have shown us that they can run the operations successfully,” said Chewe.
Glencore Plc is facilitating the offloading of 90 per cent shareholding in Mopani to ZCCM-IH.
The Swiss-based commodity and mining company had earlier this year announced its intention to place Mopani on care and maintenance, signalling its desire to exit the Zambian mining sector in response to its escalating operational costs.
But some stakeholders have cautioned government against any planned move to acquire its stake as it could render the mining company commercially unviable due to possible excessive political interference.
According to ZCCM-IH first cautionary announcement issued on September 4, 2020, the holding company has commenced discussions with Glencore Finance (Bermuda) Limited regarding the future of Mopani Copper Mines Plc.
Glencore Finance is the major shareholder of Carlisa Investments Corporation, which in-turn, is the majority shareholder of Mopani.