Wusakile independent member of parliament Pavyuma Kalobo has called for a law that will penalise erring investors if the government is to put the country’s interests first.
And Kalobo says investors running Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Chingola should leave the country if they cannot afford to pay their suppliers and contractors, adding that there are many other people in Zambia who are capable of smoothly running the former mining giant.
Commenting on the ongoing public debates concerning KCM’s failure to pay suppliers and contractors, Kalobo said the mining company was breaching its contract with the Zambian government by failing to clear payments to the suppliers and contractors.
“Firstly, I want to indicate that it’s a very sad situation where a big company like KCM fails to pay its suppliers. These suppliers have also employed [other] Zambians, so how do they pay their workers if they are not getting paid themselves? Them [KCM owners] where they are selling copper, they are being paid, so it’s not fair. Whatever situation they are in or whatever reasons they might advance, it’s not fair. I hear other people saying KCM shouldn’t leave but for me, as a member of parliament who is coming from a mining constituency which hosts two multi national companies like KCM itself and Mopani Copper Mines, and again who has got people who are directly affected by the same situation of not paying the suppliers, I would say yes, they (KCM) should go because they are not ready to work with Zambians,” Kalobo said.
“Zambians should benefit from the mineral wealth. So those suppliers have the right to demand, they have the right to be paid and they should be paid on time. So I think fears to say ‘people will lose jobs’ should not be there because it will not even be the first situation. If I recall very well, in 2004 when Anglo American left, KCM was run by a Zambian mining expert called Jordan Soko, who kept the labour workforce of 22,000 both directly and indirectly…Soko ran that company for two years until Vendetta took over the mine. So we can do it ourselves also as Zambians. For me, I think ZCCM has the capacity to run these mines, that’s why I am for the idea that KCM should leave.”
He further encouraged government to start buying off shares from some of the multi national companies which were struggling to run their businesses so that the country could hold the majority stake and better the lives of citizens.
Kalobo also proposed the introduction of a law to deal with companies dodging taxes and other obligations.
“I think government should start buying off these shares so that at least we become the majority shareholders. Then I think things will change in the mining sector. They are our minerals and minerals are a diminishing resource, so this is the time for Zambians to benefit. And again, when you look at the some investors, they are failing to pay the right taxes. There is a lot of cheating, there is a lot of tax evasion in the mining sector, which is not fair. So I am proposing that maybe we should legislate economic sabotage when there is cheating, because the people who are heading these tax evasions, the cheating, are our fellow Zambians. The accountants are Zambians, production managers are Zambians. So if we legislate for economic sabotage, it will help. This is our Zambia,” said Kalobo.
“We should also legislate to have these mines repossessed when they don’t follow the right procedures, failing to pay the contractors was not part of what they signed for when they came here to work in our mines. So that is a mistreatment on the part of our Zambian suppliers. That’s why government should just start buying off these shares so that our people can have a say. We need to strengthen the laws so that they can address specific misconducts like these. Yes, we have laws in place but they do not criminalise acts like what is happening at KCM where suppliers haven’t been paid.”