FINANCE Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu has refuted claims that government is considering giving away Mopani Copper Mines Plc in exchange for wiping out Chinese debt.
According to an article published in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Monday, the Zambian Government is considering handing over the Glencore-owned mining asset to China in exchange for debt relief.
“Officials in Zambia, for example, say Beijing is demanding collateral in exchange for debt deferral or forgiveness. Two senior Zambian officials on a government panel negotiating with China said they are considering giving the Chinese copper-mining assets including the country’s third-largest mine, Mopani, owned by Glencore Plc, a London-listed mining company, in exchange for debt relief,” read the article in part.
But speaking during a media briefing on the economy in Lusaka, Monday, Dr Ng’andu rubbished the claims, arguing that if the proposed transaction was in the pipeline, government would have no need to hide if the alleged asset handover would help Zambia out of debt.
“Let me start with the famous question of Mopani assets being swapped for debt. I was disrupted last (Sunday) night by a phone call from Washington, from the IMF, wanting to find out how true this is. My simple response was: ‘it is not true.’ Some people might want to refer to this as ‘fake news,’ but here is the situation: the team that has been negotiating or discussing the issues of debt with the Chinese is a very small team from the Ministry and we are all here, on this side. Nobody spoke to any of us on that issue. Secondly, in the discussions, we have not asked for such debt swap from the Chinese, neither have the Chinese asked us to do this. So, all I can say is it is not true, where it came from, I don’t know,” said Dr Ng’andu.
“Sometimes, I find that when journalists want to fabricate a story, they will refer to some sources who are never known, and in this case, they are supposed to be some senior government officials, who are involved with the negotiations who revealed this information, but I frankly don’t know who those officials are. And as far as I know, there is no basis in truth. I would know about it and here is the thing, if we were negotiating for this as a solution, why would we want to hide it? If we think it is a sensible thing to do, why would we want to keep it under wraps? And if we think that that’s a way of getting out of debt, we would be very happy to announce that we are doing it and to give a justification for it. But we are not doing it and that is the position as it stands right now.”