ActionAid Zambia has given the Zambian Government seven days in which to state its official position over the Vedanta saga.
And ActionAid Zambia says Vedanta Chairman Amil Agarwal has committed a crime against Zambians after disclosing that he was raking in US$1.5 billion annually from a mine he purchased at a paltry US$ 25 million over a decade ago.
Speaking Friday afternoon when ActionAid Zambia held a media stunt to express its displeasure over the revelations by Mr Agarwal, Organisation Country Director Pamela Chisanga said the Zambian Government must come out clean over the matter.
At the media stunt, activists from ActionAid Zambia, the Centre for Trade Policy and Development and the Council of Churches of Zambia wearing mining attire, displayed placards denouncing Vedanta.
Local Comedians Diffikoti and Bikiloni performed a parody of Mr Agarwal’s address at a business conference in India and mocked his investments in Zambia.
Addressing the protestors, Ms. Chisanga said enough is enough over the KCM issue.
“This media stunt demonstrates the absurdity of what has happened to Zambia. This demonstrates what we as ActionAid have been saying for some time now. We have consistently said that Zambia is not receiving the true benefits from its natural resources. We have continuously emphasized that something is very wrong, if you look at production in the mines, it is at its peak, we never saw these production levels during the ZCCM days but the benefits are not consistent with production. We see these trucks on our roads everyday carrying our copper but the revenue is not consistent with production,” Ms. Chisanga said.
She charged that what the KCM boss said is a reflection of where the money is going.
“He is clearly telling us that he is making money from KCM and this is the same mine that we have been consistently told is making losses. Agarwal is making US$ 500 million and US$ 1 billion dollars annually. How is it that he is making so much money and yet we as a country are not making anything because the mine is known to be a loss making entity? How come we don’t know about that money? Somebody must be held accountable.”
She said it is saddening that since the video came out Government has not issued any statement.
“We expected the Zambian Government to be the first to come out and state its position. Why is our Government silent, there is something very wrong? Why are we allowing investors to come and reap our resources?” Ms. Chisanga questioned.
She said there is something fundamentally wrong with the Zambian society if people can come in and take away the resources and brag about it and we are all quiet as a nation.
“This is where we expected even our President to come out strongly and investigate these revelations. President Sata must instruct Ministry of Finance to investigate and get a report on KCM but even the President is quiet. Let’s hold our leaders accountable. When you talk about Government, it does not matter who was President at that particular time, when things go wrong, the person who is at the helm, the buck stops with him. In this sense, the buck stops at Mr Sata’s door,” she said.
Ms. Chisanga added, “President Sata needs to demonstrate that he is at the top of things in this country and that he is able to save this country from investors who are coming to reap us off. We need this money, we are very poor and poverty levels are very high. The PF has embarked on a very ambitious infrastructure development programme. This is where the money should be coming from and not borrowing. We won’t need the Eurobonds and all these loans if we are to collect the US$ 1.5 dollars this man is making every year.”
She said, “We need to hear Government’s position within the coming week, can they tell us their position. My humble suggestion is that let them close that mine until they figure what is happening because at the moment it looks like we don’t know what is happening and we are losing vital revenue. Put a stop to that mine and until we get to the bottom of this saga.”
At the same event, ActionAid Economics Justice Programme Manager Patrick Nshindano demanded that the Zambian Government explains how the sale of KCM was undertaken.
Mr Nshindano said recourse also needs to be undertaken over the KCM saga.
“A crime has been committed against the Zambian people, it’s not just the issue of underselling a company at a low price and a crime has been committed against Zambian people because that is a Zambian asset and sold for a song. People involved in this transaction must be brought to book and prosecuted if need be,” he said.
Mr Nshindano also challenged the British High Commission in Lusaka to come out and look at this issue critically.
“What we know is that Vedanta is a British domiciled company and therefore the UK authorities must say something about this business practice by Mr Agarwal. It is not just a matter of bringing in investors, we want responsible investors and not plunderers.