Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Amos Chanda says if negotiations with Mopani Copper Mines fail, President Edgar Lungu will act in the interest of workers.

Speaking at a media briefing at Twangale Park in Lusaka today, Amos said President Lungu had asked him to tell Mines Minister Christopher Yaluma to engage Mopani on the power standoff with CEC as soon as possible.

Asked what would happen if the negotiations failed, Amos said President Lungu’s primary responsibility was to protect workers.

“According to what the president told me this morning, his primary responsibility is the protection of the welfare of workers. So I cannot preempt a meeting which has not taken place but all I can say is that the government will act responsibly to ensure that the interests of the workers are protected,” Amos said.

“From the government side, we always have a positive perspective to things. Arm twisting, black mail…and I hope that Mopani as a responsible corporate citizen will not engage in what you are saying; arm twisting, it is actually never a good idea, never on any given day, it is never a good idea to attempt to arm twist the government.”

He said Yaluma would deliver a message to Mopani about the need to engage in decent business practices and the need for them to abide by the new electricity tariffs.

“The President has given instructions to the Minister of Mines to deliver a very clear and unequivocal message to management and Mopani to engage in civil, decent business practices rather than undertake actions that may be understood or misunderstood to be acts of blackmail against the government. So the Minister of Mines and the Minister of Energy will be engaging with Mopani to deliver that clear message that the tariff adjustment is just one of the components of the broad reforms in the energy sector that government announced on November 26, 2015, the President gave a very clear intention that subsidies in the power sector, subsidies in the fuel sector and even in agriculture were going to be removed and Cabinet has passed policies and government is following through. So if those reforms have been accepted in the consumer sector, by the poor consumers in households, the President expects that all sectors of the economy, both business and the economy must accept the reforms that have been taking place,” Amos said.

“So the President has asked me to inform the Minister of Mines to engage Mopani and understand exactly what they want to do otherwise the actions they have undertaken in the recent days appear unacceptable to the government but of course the minister will be outlining in full what other measures are available to try and see that the workers are not disadvantaged.”

Amos also said President Lungu did not understand how a dispute with CEC would make Mopani terminate payments to suppliers and to threaten retrenchments.

“The President understands that the court case is on-going but the President does not understand how that court process and any other disputes between Mopani and those who supply them power can extend to the termination of payments to contractors for instance particularly only those that are Zambian and suppliers. Threats to retrench workers and a whole range of activity, failure to abide by all agreed normal business practices. So the President has instructed the Minister of Mines and the detail of engagement I think will be announced to you by the Minister of Mines,” said Amos.