THE Power Generation and Allied Workers Union (POGAWUZ) and National Union of Transport and Allied Workers (NUTAW) are seeking President Lungu’s intervention over the opening of Indeni Refinery alleging that the Ministers of Energy and Finance have failed to handle the affairs of the company.

And the Unions have warned that the country has put itself in a security risk situation by leaving the oil sector in the hands of private companies.

In an interview, POGAWUZ general secretary Mutukelwa Lubita said the Minister of Energy Mathews Nkhuwa had made assurances on the reopening of Indeni, all of which were not fulfilled.

“We have not spoken out as unions because we have been given assurances but those assurances have resulted in nothing. Not so long ago, I think in January, the Minister addressed the nation and said Indeni was going to receive crude oil in the next six weeks, that six weeks has ended. I think we are now finishing another six weeks, we haven’t heard about crude anywhere, not even on the sea. That crude is still at the Ministry of Finance we are told. So the question that begs to be asked is, is the ministry of energy expecting us as a union to talk to the Head of State because it appears everyone who has a problem in the ministry must talk to the Head of State in order for them to get solutions. The minister has given us assurances three times. We have no choice but to go to the President, who in our view is already overloaded because his ministers are not doing their job,” Lubita said.

“The first shortage that happened last year, he promised that they were going to buy 10 cargos and we only saw one cargo that came, and once that cargo finished by mid-December, there was nothing up to today. So the other nine cargos we haven’t seen them.”

Lubita charged that the Minister of Finance misapplied the money meant for the refinery and left the workers on life support.

“The Minister of Finance, we could say where he is wrong is that he has misapplied the money that buys that crude, that’s why we are in the situation where we are because he is not doing his job. How did he miss the money? Where did he take the money to a level where today he is failing to pay? So what that situation has done is that it has put the Indeni workers on life support. They are so scared for their jobs. Despite the assurances that their jobs will not be lost. You see, these are people who are getting paid for what they are not doing, they are just at home and money is coming in, but that’s torture. So employees are tortured by this kind of arrangement,” he said.

“Between the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Finance, one of them is incompetent, he doesn’t know what he is doing. That’s our view as a union. Why do we say so, we are now told the Minister of Finance is the one who is supposed to do the payment and the Minister of Energy claims that has been begging him to pay. Now, our understanding as a union is that the money for crude is actually supposed to be a revolving fund because we buy crude then when we process the crude, we take it to TAZAMA, and it sells and collects cash. When it collects cash, it is given back to the Ministry of Finance to say ‘here is the money’. The responsibility of the Ministry of Finance is to say from that account where we receive the sales for crude, we have accumulated, let’s pay the supplier then it comes back like that. Then the government in terms of enjoying that business, they enjoy at the end when Indeni declares its dividends.”

Lubita further explained that over the past 10 months, the refinery has only worked for two months, the last time being in December 2020.

“From July 2020 to April this year, the refinery has only worked for two months. We have never had that kind of situation, never. Even when the refinery was low on efficiency it never had such kinds of outages. Now, what we are talking about here is that as much as the refinery is old, everything is now modern, the equipment, the system, the apparatus that they have brought and has improved the reliability. It has been rehabilitated to a level where it actually competes well in terms of the standards that it offers. It currently doesn’t even need the yearly shutdown so that they can do maintenance. So whoever will say the infrastructure is obsolete will be telling lies,” Lubita explained.

And NUTAW general secretary Anderson Haninga emphasised that leaving the procurement of fuel in the hands of private companies could leave government open to arm twisting by the industry players.

“We also mentioned to the minister that through the pipeline is the secure way of getting the crude and having fuel here. For some time now we have been hearing that TAZAMA, Indeni can’t meet the demand for the country so they are putting in 40 to 50 percent then the other percentage is being brought in through the finished product by road through the tankers. Through the pipeline is where government has much control because that’s their installation. But when the pipeline is not working and we only depend on the road, the fuel business remains in the hands of oil marketing companies and leaves the government in a position where the OMCs will start making demands and try to arm twist government which is what we saw with the drivers over the weekend,” warned Haninga.