FODEP executive director Chimfwembe Mweenge says it is shameful that Zambia will celebrate 53 years of independence without a Bill of Rights.

And Mweenge says only a governance environment founded on transparency and accountability can make it possible for those in mining areas to benefit from the proceeds.

Reflecting on Zambia’s economic state of affairs on Independence at a briefing today, Mweenge said having a Bill of Rights would enable citizens to make claims on their social economic rights.

“It is also prudent that if there is to be a progressive realization of service delivery from the proceeds of the extractives, the government should not turn a blind eye to the calls for a judicable bill of rights but should instead give a clear indication on the fate of the Referendum on the Bill of Rights. We observe that 53 years of independence without a judicable bill of rights to enable citizens make claims on their social economic rights is just shameful and inexcusable,” Mweenge said.

And Mweenge stressed the need for those in mining areas to benefit from the proceeds.

“The organization’s objectives have been to ensure that public resources are used in a transparent and accountable manner, and provide for community participation in planning and developmental processes in the targeted districts of North Western Province. As the country celebrates 53 years of independence, Foundation for Democratic Process’ main desire is to see stakeholders and particularly the government and the mining corporations in all provinces reflect seriously on the extent to which local communities within the mining towns including regions where explorations are taking place are benefiting from these natural resources especially after so many years of independence,” Mweenge stated.

“But we regret to note that today, Zambia stands as one of the most unequal sharing country with rampant poverty levels. Ironically, this is specifically true in the hosting communities of the extractives; there is an immediate need by the government of the day to initiate responsive laws to benefit communities that are hosting the mines. It is public knowledge that mining activities continue to surge in the many districts and provinces. We recognize that the government attempted in 2008 to select a mineral royalty sharing mechanism under section 136 of the Mines and Minerals Act no 7 of 2008 but that was not effected and consequently removed in the 2015 Mines and Minerals Act. We therefore make a clarion call on parliament to recall minerals royalty sharing mechanisms in the 2015 Mines and Minerals Act to enable the Zambian people to have a direct control of the natural resources.”

Mweenge noted that particularly copper alone has accounted for 12 percent of Zambia’s Gross Domestic Product.

“Copper alone has accounted for 12 percent of Zambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and an average of 70 percent of the total export value. Given the promising prospects of copper price at international market, by the mid-2017, the price of copper on the international market reached US$6,791 per ton, however, it is only through a responsive governance environment founded on strict accountability, transparency and good governance principles and values on the part of all actors, that the Zambian people and communities living in the mining areas can be elevated out of poverty and celebrate their independence meaningfully and with dignity,” he stated.

Mweenge demanded that government should take measures to ensure that the most important national assets begin to contribute meaningful to the welfare of its citizens.

“1.The government must fully implement the provisions of the Africa Mining Vision, adopted by the African Heads of State in 2009. The vision advocates thinking outside ‘the mining box’. It is about improving mining regimes by making sure that tax revenues are optimized, income is well spent and above all mining is integrated much better into development policies at local, national and regional levels. 2. Government must strengthen its capacity to negotiate contracts with mining multinationals that generate fair resource rents and stipulate local inputs for operations. 3. The government must expedite the implementation of the decentralization process and ensure full devolution. The current delays in the setting up of ward development committees in local authorities are denying citizens the right to interact with the mines about community needs. 4. Currently, most of the local communities especially marginalized women, youths and people with disabilities (PWDs) are not sufficiently benefiting from mining investments in Zambia and the government must quickly review the laws, policies and legal framework,” said Mwange.

“5. Zambia has continued to receive a steady rise in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) with the extractive industries accounting for the highest. There is need to raise the bar for accountability for natural resources and revenues so that communities can benefit and the vision of the 7th National Development Plan, whose theme is “leaving no one behind,” can be achieved. 6. The government must review and strengthen its economic policies in order to safeguard the long term social economic welfare of communities and Zambians at large so that the mining towns do not become white elephants projects in future. 7. Government must be seen to support citizens who are affected by the effects of mining. A case in point is that of Chingola residents vs. Konkola Copper Mines.”