There was commotion in Chingola yesterday when a combined team of security forces escorted the appointed provisional liquidator of Konkola Copper Mines from Lusaka to go and take over the assets of the Vedanta owned mine.
Provisional liquidator Lungu Milingo of Messrs Lungu Simwanza was accompanied by a high powered delegation appointed by President Edgar Lungu, comprising the Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources Richard Musukwa, Minister of Labour and Social Security Joyce Nonde-Simukoko, Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Amos Chanda, Special Assistant to the President for Political Affairs Kaizer Zulu, Special Assistant to the President on Economic and Development Affairs Hibeene Mwiinga, Special Assistant to the President for Legal Affairs Sukwana Lukangaba and the Labour Commissioner.
Escorted by a highly charged combined team of police and military personnel, the delegation landed at Kasompe Airstrip and immediately headed to the Chingola based KCM unit in VVIP fashion as roads were swept and traffic halted to pave way for the provisional liquidator. When the delegation convoy reached 4th street, which leads to KCM, the security personnel fired several shots in the air in a manner that suggested to signal the arrival of the provisional liquidator.
Speaking when he delivered the liquidation documents and the court order appointing him as provisional liquidator, Milingo, who is also Patriotic Front deputy chairman of legal affairs in the ruling party’s Central Committee, made it clear to KCM management that all the assets of the mine would be under his charge.
He assured workers that operations of the mine would continue and that their salaries would be paid by himself as liquidator.
And Mines Minister Richard Musukwa says the decision to liquidate KCM is aimed at making the company more viable and prevent job losses.
“We have served the documents on the mine management, ZCCMIH, as you know commenced the petition against KCM and the petition was that they have lost confidence in the manner the mine, business and assets are being managed. So they petitioned the court that KCM should be liquidated for just and equitable reasons. Following that, they applied for a provisional liquidator, I was appointed provisional liquidator, I will be provisional liquidator because it is an interim measure until the final winding up order is made, if it will be made. So in the meantime the order of appointing me has vested the assets of KCM in myself and I will be meeting management on how we will proceed,” Milingo said.
“But what I would like to assure everyone is that the status quo will continue, the mine will continue operating as it has been operating until the court decides whether the winding up order is issued or not. So I will urge all workers, suppliers, contractors, not to be anxious in the interim period because all measures are being taken to ensure that the transition is well undertaken.”
He said workers should not be worried about their salaries as they will be paid by himself as liquidator.
“In terms of workers’ salaries, that will be taken care, I think no one should be worried about workers being paid, we are going to pay the workers as the liquidator. So what we are saying is that the status quo will continue, probably even better than before. I have been appointed to ensure that there is no stripping of assets, so it is a holding position so to say until the court decides on the fate of KCM PLC,” said Milingo.
And Musukwa said the decision to liquidate KCM was aimed at making the company more viable and prevent job losses.
“Our mission this afternoon is simple, first of all is to confirm that the liquidator has been appointed and I am sure that he has served the necessary documents to management of KCM. This decision has been made to ensure that we solve the looming crisis at KCM and prevent the job losses and the huge indebtedness to contractors and suppliers; in short it is to make KCM viable. The liquidator will ensure that current operations of the company continues in a smooth way without disruption, and I am sure that the legal team of KCM will understand the role of the liquidator. Government’s aim is to ensure that KCM survives. I want to take this opportunity to assure workers that this transition will ensure that their interests and that of the company are preserved,” said Musukwa.
And Presidential spokesperson Amos Chanda said KCM would not fail after being placed under liquidation.
“The President of the Republic of Zambia made pronouncements on the decision of national interest, he was going to make in order to protect the interests of the people and the company. Simply put, the liquidator has taken charge and he will tell you and will tell you exactly what will happen but to disengage the President from that broad perspective, KCM is too big to fail, he is aware of several factors that without intervention the company would fail, so the President has fulfilled this process that the due process of the law would have to take place, so the necessary proceedings have been done, management has been informed,” said Chanda.
Meanwhile, Mine Union of Zambia President Joseph Chewe called on KCM workers to unite and protect the assets of the mine during the transition.
“We want to tell our fellow workers across KCM that our concerns have been heard, what I want to tell our fellow workers as we look at this transition, let’s unite and protect the assets of this company. Let’s continue following the rules of the company so that no one loses a job during this time. Let’s work hard while the issue is being looked at, this is our company, let’s preserve the future of this company. Let’s support this transition, we called for this transition, let’s protect the assets and our mine,” said Chewe.
And Mine Suppliers and Contractors Union vice –president Costa Mwaba disclosed that KCM was owing contractors and suppliers over US$260 million which he hoped would be settled by the liquidator.
KCM Plc is comprised of three strategic business units namely; Nchanga, which has Nchanga Underground and Nchanga open pits in Chingola as well as Nampundwe Mine in Lusaka province. KCM also operates a smelting and refining unit comprising the Nchanga Smelter in Chingola and Nkana refinery in Kitwe. It also runs the Konkola business unit in Chililabombwe which operates No.3 and No.4 Shafts.
A check at the mine, by press time, found workers wondering about in their working departments, most of whom unable to knock off as they anxiously followed the unfolding takeover of the mining giant by State authorities.