Former Commerce and Trade Minister Bob Sichinga has urged Zambia to take full reign of the mines or increase its ownership in the industry to reduce poverty and create jobs.
Speaking at the Leadership Conference Foundation at Pamodzi Hotel in Lusaka on Wednesday following a keynote address by Paul Kabuswe, the Minister of Mines. Mr Sichinga said it’s common sense that you only plough back in profits as a country or a company, what you put in through ownership.
“If you have 10 % shareholding in the mines in Zambia that are currently earning about US$84 billion, you only earn back 10pc,” said Mr Sichinga who also worked as group financial controller for ZCCM said.
“I heard you say there will be no nationalisation. I would be careful with my words because ownership is everything and Zambia should own at least 50% or more of the mines,” said Mr Sichinga.
Whatever the government does on behalf of Zambians regarding the mines, Mr Sichinga said bringing back companies such as Glencore AG and or Vedanta would be a fatal economic decision because of their insecurity.
“You are talking about companies (Vedanta and Glencore) that have been posting losses since they started operations years ago and yet they keep expanding globally beyond Zambia. They must not be allowed back,” said Mr Sichinga.
Up to now, Zambia still owes money it borrowed from the World Bank to pay terminal benefits to mine workers laid off by Anglo said Mr Sichinga, adding that some of the workers are yet to be paid their terminal benefits.
Mr Sichinga, bemoaned the fact that the UPND government had brought back Rothschild & Co to advice it on making mining profitable in Zambia saying it is wrong.
In his defence, however, Mr Kabuswe said, “we inherited a confused mining sector, we were shocked which are trying to fix right now through major reforms.”
The Minister, without specifying a number said Zambia would soon “increase” its shareholding in the mining sector but ensure that the economy remains liberal.
He also declared that the UPND government is “Not a Puppet government” amdist major criticism from several sections of the opposition and pundits.
However, Mr Kabuswe said that Zambia is failing to derive full benefits from the mining sector because of lack of capacity to add value to minerals locally.
Mr Kabuswe said that the government, therefore, wants to see more Zambians participating in the mining sector and has encouraged local businesses to put their resources together and form Greenfield Mines that will create opportunities for other Zambians.
Mr. Kabuswe challenged Zambians to rise to the occasion and start participating fully in the mining sector by owning mines instead of only aspiring to be managers.
He emphasized that the new dawn government’s vision is not to nationalize mines but will ensure that the participation of citizens in the mining value chain is promoted through the creation of a conducive environment.
And Leadership Conference Foundation Director Oscar Chavula said the Foundation is a nonprofit independent group of Leaders that is able to stand on what they believe and have a debate that is completely robust and independent of third party interest.
Mr. Chavula also said that Copper Mining has been a part of Zambia for a long time and is the sole commodity that has remained the economic carpet of the country.