UPND president Hakainde Hichilema says PF has exacerbated Konkola Copper Mines’ (KCM) challenges by splitting it into two entities.

And Hichilema says a similar situation is evolving at Mopani Copper Mines where PF will create more problems instead of seeking lasting solutions.

KCM acting chief executive officer Enock Mponda announced earlier this month that provisional liquidator Milingo Lungu had decided to reorganise and restructure KCM into two subsidiary companies, namely KCM SmelterCo Limited, and Konkola Mineral Resources Limited effective February 1, 2021, in a bid to increase efficiency, foster optimisation and boost business opportunities.

But Hichilema warned that the unprecedented move had only exacerbated the troubled mining firm’s situation and created more questions than answers.

“Let me address the splitting of KCM. Recent report and media statements indicate that government intends to split KCM into two entities, one Konkola Mineral Resources, so we hear; KCM Smelter or something. In business, this is technically a disruption as we know it. It means KCM as we know it today will no longer be the same. The shareholders that we see today, will no longer be the same. This may mean exacerbating the condition. The problems will increase! It is also important to know that when this happens, it implies that all employees that were previously working under KCM will be declared redundant. In view of the way the PF is mishandling the country, they can no longer be trusted into managing the mines because they are not trustworthy. How do we know? From what they have done in the past. We cannot trust PF to handle KCM again because of the manner they have done things. There is no transparency, they have just split the company into two,” Hichilema told journalists, Wednesday.

“Let me address payments of redundancy packages to miners. There are anxieties among miners of the proposed redundancy packages, which have been split into three instalments. We hear the first instalments they plan to pay of the 1st of March, 2021. And The second instalment they plan to pay on the 2nd of September, 2021, and the last instalment, six months after September, 2021. Now, let’s call things by their eight names. There is concern amongst workers that his will be a problem. So, we in the UPND agree that the proposed move is undesirable. We advise the PF to ensure full payment. Pay the workers in full! We don’t trust you; you are too selfish, too greedy and too ‘street behaviour.’ PF is practicing divide and rule in determining the amounts that are due to the workers. Then, tell us who are the news owners of KCM or the split companies?”

And Hichilema said a similar situation was evolving at Mopani.

“We want a review of the labour laws, whole process so that we see whether miners are being exploited, so that they can protect and favour workers. That’s what the UPND stands for. And as we take office, we will do that. Should the PF succeed in selling KCM, we want to see clear contracts where former workers are taken back on board. We don’t want our people to lose jobs. Miners in Zambia are the lowest paid in the region. Why should it be? We want our workers to be remunerated better. We are sending our miners to an early grave! Let’s move onto Mopani, we are equally concerned that the PF wants to take a wrong route again at Mopani. We are seeing a similar situation evolving there because the PF is benefiting. Small number of people are benefiting. The termination of contracts of employees at Mopani will bring untold misery to the people. The lack of clear mining policy is problematic,” he said.

“Why should Zambians trust foreigners to manage our gold because a small number of PF are benefiting? We should be able to be fully accountable. We want to allow the minerals to benefit Zambians and not foreigners. As we form government, we will ensure that the right things are done. We first raised alarm on the irresponsible and abusive behaviour of the mine owner, Vedanta, way back. There is an assumption that Vedanta were operating on its own, no. ‘Belebombela chapamo’ (They were working together). Vedanta and the PF government, so the cheating going on, that all these problems have just come now and the PF didn’t know, bufi! (lies!)”

He stressed that the PF’s involvement in the mining sector was purely designed for their own members and relatives to reap financial rewards.

“The PF took what they thought was good, street behaviour. Very typical street behaviour. They don’t want to think about problems, they don’t want to consult, they don’t want to get advice. Without due regard to the mining employees, unions, mine workers, and what we see today is the PF taking decisions that only benefit them, their cadres and their relatives. That cannot be allowed to continue. We repeatedly reminded the nation that Vedanta were literally stripping our resources without any tangible benefit from the people of the Copperbelt and a country as a whole,” said Hichilema.

“They should not be tolerated, but they were tolerated. And When we say Vedanta mistreated the people, we must include the PF in there because they are joint shareholders. We all know the shareholding in KCM, its Vedanta and government managed by the PF. When time came to sort out the loan outstanding in KCM, which had gotten out of hand by then, the PF took their own decisions of appointing party functionaries, their party cadres to run a complex mine like the KCM. The route that PF took was never going to solve the problems at KCM.”