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Friday, May 27, 2022

HH at the Mining Indaba – Is this a worthy trip?

Columns HH at the Mining Indaba – Is this a worthy trip?

By Chimwemwe Mwanza

So deeply polarised is the Zambian political landscape that the citizenry prefers to dissect burning socio-economic and political issues through the lens of partisan politics.

Here in lies a danger. While opportunistic criticism and often a times lacking in substance appeals to base politics, it only serves to enrich a poverty of ideas. Let’s get straight to the point, is there merit to criticism being levelled against the incumbent President for honouring an invitation to attend the Mining Indaba currently underway in Capetown, South Africa. Let’s be clear from the onset, the role of the commentariat is not to bat for either the state or the opposition but maintain neutrality.

However, it would be irresponsible to fold arms and capitulate to the whims of peddlers of disinformation. Hence the warning, be careful what you read either on digital or in print media for that matter. Narrative manipulators are increasingly becoming desperate and sophisticated making it difficult for mere mortals to distinguish facts from their fiction. This caution cuts across the divide, both the opposition and ruling party supporters.

HH’s attendance of the on-going Mining Indaba shouldn’t be a hair-raising mystery. The objectives of the Indaba are simple, to network, lobby and sell participating country’s investment opportunities. Yet in this climate of socio-economic despondency, it’s almost impossible to ignore the stench of poverty. And thanks in part to a brand of lumpen politics enabled by social media, extravagancy, whether real or perceived is the soft underbelly for politicians looking to score cheap political points.

The objective is to cast their opponents as spendthrifts or a class of elitists that are out of tune with the suffering masses. Perfect example, the indirect message in the criticism levelled against HH being: ‘The President is too busy galivanting in SA to worry about your complaints against rising costs of fertilizer, fuel, electricity and mealie meal among other essentials.’ But is this true?

It doesn’t help much that the President occasionally scores his own goals including his previous visit to SA – a private trip he undertook at taxpayer’s expence to attend a book launch organised by one of his most ardent backers. Therefore, it ought to have come as no surprise that the invitation extended to his office to grace this year’s Mining Indaba and his subsequent participation in proceedings has somewhat elicited a backlash.

In a desperate effort to impugn on his travels, it’s the mischaracterisation of the Indaba as a talk shop or a touristy charade that’s deeply troubling. For the record, this is the most prestigious annual gathering of mining stakeholders, labour federations and heads of governments drawn from cross sections of the continent – which is why any self-respecting head of state and whose country has significant exposure to mining ought to attend.

As for Zambia, Africa’s second biggest copper producing economy, the stakes couldn’t be higher. This industry is the mainstay of the country’s economy. Mining is also the single largest employer accounting for more than 17% of GDP. In fact, it’s almost impossible to imagine a functional Zambian economy without a copper-bottomed pull. As a famous saying goes, when copper prices tank on the global market, ninshi ba kopala bachula.

While understandable that ba Kopala are disdainful of foreign investors, the blame squarely lies on state actors that have been handing free passes to mining entities in exchange for self-enriching schemes and kickbacks. The previous regulatory regime gave very little comfort to protection of investment rights which is why a sitting government could easily kick out a rightful owner of a mining asset and hand it to a party apparatchik to manage.

It’s new beginnings and that kind of behaviour is a thing of the past is the message that HH sold delegates to the Indaba. He further committed his government to raising copper output by more than three – fold (900 000) to 3 million tonnes/year over the next ten years. This is a huge statement of intent considering the financial distress of the country’s two biggest mining firms, Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) and Konkola Copper Mines (KCM).

Yet, he remains optimistic that this target will be met on the strength of the new regulatory regime which among other objectives has committed to protecting investment rights. Do we believe him? While it has become fashionable to be pessimistic about the country’s economic prospects, it’s hard to ignore his pragmatism. Time is the only measure.

Most encouraging though is that the respect, attention, and applause which he was accorded by delegates and potential investors alike after his keynote address gives hope that a semblance of stability has finally dawned on Zambia’s mining sector. But this is just hope.

About the Author: Mwanza enjoys reading Political History and Philosophy. He is non-partisan but a passionate football fan. For feedback, email: [email protected]

12 COMMENTS

  1. At least he achieved the feat of giving KCM back to Vedanta, so to the praise-singers the trip was overly successful. He’s a good negotiator, Bally the Fixer. Who are we to argue otherwise? We must all shut up

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  2. The people who sent lusambo to represent Zambia at past events are the ones chritiscing HHs 4 days ????

    Go back to sleep………

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  3. “The previous regulatory regime gave very little comfort to protection of investment rights which is why a sitting government could easily kick out a rightful owner of a mining asset and hand it to a party apparatchik to manage” They lost investor confidence as the would investor wasn’t assured of continuity in case it doesn’t sit well with government.
    “It’s new beginnings and that kind of behaviour is a thing of the past is the message that HH sold delegates to the Indaba” bringing back the confidence as assurance to investors of win win situation for them and government.
    “Most encouraging though is that the respect, attention, and applause which he was accorded by delegates and potential investors alike after his keynote address gives hope that a semblance of stability has…

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  4. It is good to dream big and put the dream into reality. The reality is that Zambia has never produced 2000 000 tonnes of contained copper per year even when most of the reserves were outcrops. If we choose to mine with no regard to game reserves and environment, we might manage about 1 600 000 tonnes of contained copper per year. Not a good thing to do. On the other hand, Copper consumption in the country is very very low, there are just no industries to consume copper in Zambia. To dream to increase consumption of copper within the country from less than 1 percent to 20 percent is forward looking. To the writer of the article praise singing will not take us anywhere. By the end of 10 years, the same investors promising that they will produce 3 000 000 tonnes will leave Zambia producing…

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  5. Four days of mining promises, and ZERO days of environmental guarantees. Quite worrying. And STILL no ban on charcoal production or limits on deforestation.

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  6. “…Most encouraging though is that the respect, attention, and applause which he was accorded by delegates and potential investors alike after his keynote address…”
    When mining titans praise you in such manner, you are definetly doing something wrong.
    Paul Kagame when addressing the Parliament in Congo Brazzaville stated, “I have seen a number of my brothers in this continent as leaders, who go to beg with a bowl to the west, and say they need help. Only criminal leaders give tax breaks in mining.”
    Kagame visited Zambia on the 5th of April and made this statement on the 20th of April. Make of that what you will.

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  7. When watching any sports to start enjoying the game you have to familiarize yourself with the rules of the game. When the ref messes up or the player is favored you’ll lose interest in the game.

    The United Kingdom colonized many countries because of the rule of law and being a mother parliaments and Magna Carta.

    UPND administration has exposed GRZ, the custodians of rules of laws that it can be corrupted by the highest bidder.

    One loses sleep to imagine getting independence from GRZ where there will be fifty years from now in terms of playing by the rules of law.

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  8. Thank you for the brief feedback on the Mining Indaba which took place in Cape Town from 09 – 12 May 2022. We look forward to being updated on future development regarding investors, mining policies and how the Zambian community would benefit in terms of employment, among others. Please continue being transparent, we need real and visible change for the people.

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  9. I’m having a hard time wrapping myself in someone with immunity from prosecution to attend a mining indaba and then taxed you at the same time.

    Taxation without representation.

  10. Lets go farming better than mining do not register any new concessions, recall inactive licenses….lets on on a new discovery break for 5 years and then review the process…let us encourage investment in farming and tourism…lets clean our streets no more vending…let us get rid of undesirables in the corridors of progress….let us make entry into zambia a privilege those work permits,,, access to our reg card..and passport….lets make zambia loved again corrpution free….

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