Mines Minister Richard Musukwa says China must not be disadvantaged in the planned sale of Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) because of negative public sentiments being peddled against Chinese investment.

And Musukwa has disclosed that bid documents for the sale of KCM have just been approved by the legal affairs team.

Meanwhile, Musukwa says it is surprising that Vedanta Resources is using international news media to claim that it had been treating the people of Chingola and Chililabombwe well, when all it did was subject people to inhumane conditions the whole time it was in charge of KCM.

Speaking when he featured on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, Musukwa said government would not be coerced into surrendering KCM to an entity with ulterior motives, but insisted that China’s relationship with Zambia should also not disadvantage Chinese companies from expressing interest in taking over KCM.

“Government will not be coerced into any ulterior motives, which are meant to disadvantage Zambians. This process will be done in an open and transparent manner and doing so, we will not sit at the fence to discourage other entities. In short, China must not be disadvantaged as a result of these negative perceptions regarding the cancellation of debt. What we want, as government, is an entity that will be able to revive the operations at KCM. We are not looking at the nationality or colour or anything of that sort. What we are looking for is a company that should be able to mirror into our standard, which we have put across and certainly, we will not fall prey to such kind of manoeuvres,” Musukwa said.

he revealed that bid documents for the sale of KCM had only just been approved by the legal affairs team.

“KCM has not been sold to any entity at the moment and China included. The process hasn’t even started, the bid documents have just been approved by the legal affairs team. So, where we are sitting is that we haven’t even started the process. But what we need is a company that has the capacity to run KCM and any company that will be chosen should be able to ensure that they fit in the structure of government,” he explained.

And Musukwa said it was surprising that Vedanta was claiming that it took good care of the people of Copperbelt while it was in charge of KCM operations, when in fact not.

“Vedanta has clearly failed! As you know, KCM even started certain things that were against natural justice. For instance, they started the process of outsourcing where all key issues in terms of their production were in the hands of contractors, to a level that even the machinery and equipment they were using were all in the hands of contractors and KCM were merely spectators. We are surprised that they are even postulating in the international and local media about how they have invested, how they have been good to the people of Chingola and Chililabombwe. Grevazio (interviewer), if you want to see the failures of Vedanta, you don’t have to be on social media, you have to go to Chililabombwe and Chingola, you will see that it’s an operation that is bleeding heavily from lack of recapitalisation from Vedanta,” Musukwa argued.

“Our role as government is to ensure that we provide leadership, and in this scenario where an investor of this magnitude has failed, government has to provide leadership. There is no correlation between the debts and the operations at KCM. I have told you the reasons why we moved in, in terms of putting KCM under liquidation. Certainly, there is no issue of debt and as Minister of Mines, I am not aware of the debt of government related to the issues at KCM. In any case, the debt of government is within manageable levels in terms of our structure to pay and manage our economy and I think that the Minister of Finance is on top of things in relation to that. In any case, the debt that government owes KCM is much smaller than what the firm owes ZRA in terms of VAT refund.”

Meanwhile, Musukwa stressed that government was looking for a company with a good corporate image to take over the operations at KCM.

“Having gone through these challenges with Vedanta, we have a profile as government of what company must be able to take over. On our profile, top on the list is a company that has good corporate image about how they run their operations. This company should be able to demonstrate how they are able to mobilise resources to inject in the company. And as a higher premium, they should be able to demonstrate on how they look after their employees as a matter of priority. These are some of the key issues that we are looking at in the broad spectrum in terms of who takes over KCM. We would like a company that must operationalise the KDMP project in Chililabombwe almost immediately. We want a company that should be able to put resources in the Nchanga Upper Ore Body and underground operations, including associated operations so as to immediately start the operation so that the mine is sustainable by itself. So, we are looking at a wide range of issues. We also want a company that will ensure that the indebtedness owed to suppliers and contractors are resolved almost immediately,” Musukwa explained.

He also clarified that the involvement of members of parliament in the sale of KCM was not meant to bring confusion as being suggested by some stakeholders.

“Government, through his Excellency, the President, decided to expand the team in order to include members of parliament in order to provide a broad spectrum in terms of how we are looking at this and to be accountable to our Zambian population. And this process will not in any way compromise the efficacy of ensuring that it in an open and transparent manner. It is meant, actually, to ensure that this process is open and transparent and that this process should not have any political connotations. What we are just trying to provide is to have independent oversight from our colleagues from Parliament,” said Musukwa.