Thursday, June 20, 2024

Of Governmental taking over the Mines!

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By Prince Bill M. Kaping’a Political/Social Analyst

There have been calls from certain sectors of society for government to consider taking over the mines. “With the current favourable Copper prices, we wouldn’t even be going to plead for bail-out packages from the imperialists,” you would hear them say.

Do you honestly think the government should entangle itself in the business of running the mines? I would be shocked if such sentiments would be coming from senior PF party officials such as Chishimba Kambwili, Wilbur Simuusa or Davis Mwila as I expect the trio to easily understand how our own citizens ran down the mines during the ZCCM days as we were once queuing up for kampompo at the Nchanga Open pit Mine!

A plethora of reasons contributed to the eventual collapse of the mines – ill qualification, supplying air, indiscipline, dishonesty and the lack of dedication, among others.

One day, a mobile crane which was vital in the operations of mining activities at the Open pit broke down. The outriggers, and components where the crane stood as it hoisted things couldn’t eject. The diesel mechanics were the first ones on site – they touched everywhere they could but the machine still remained malfunctioning. “This is an electrical problem, electricians must come in,” they insisted.

A colleague and I didn’t waste time jumping onto the machine. We diagnosed the circuits from the source (battery) to the solenoids that activated the outriggers. We couldn’t detect any fault.

In the meantime, production was being delayed. Rado messages soon started flooding from the highest echelons of power in the mining establishment. “How come ore isn’t moving?” “There’s a machine blocking the way!” “Where are the mechanics?”

Seeing that we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, we roped in the so-called experts from both sides of the aisle – mechanical and electrical engineers. They just stood there like idiots…..big eyes on their faces. And these were individuals trained by the state at either UNZA or foreign universities at great expense to the nation!

“Well…..bring in the manufacturers if you can’t fix the equipment!” an irritated voice cracked in the radio. It was that of the Open pit manager.

Later in the day, a boisterous, tall and slender individual pitched up! He smoked one cigarette after another.

After briefly interrogating us, he briskly jumped onto the machine. In no time, the machine came to life and was soon standing on the outriggers. Do you know ukupomboloka ngensoka? Well, that’s what the engineers did! They totally had no clue about the fault on the equipment.

Apart from this, we had artisans who would be dispatched into the pit to attend to broken down machinery. Instead of getting down to work immediately, they’d doze off inside the shovels (not the shovels you use kumanda, but those monstrous machineries they use in the Open pit mines to extract ore from the ground, and load it onto the equally gigantic dump trucks) only to come alive a few minutes before their shift ended. They simply did so to drag the work into the next shift so that they could be paid overtime!

Kambwili worked at Nchanga as a “changa changa” – personnel officer. He would be in a better position to tell the nation how ba shimaini absconded from work after getting paid, how many times they feigned illness after a heavy drink up or pretended to have lost a relative in the village so they could stay away from work. All this was happening was happening as nobody seemed to care! “Chabuteko ichi, so what if I don’t report for work!” most of the miners would retort.

And yet you want government to step back into the mining business…..to finish off the mines, not so?

If we’re insisting on citizens running the mines, this mustn’t be conducted under the framework of the government but rather private citizens teaming up and bidding for these mines. Government must limit itself to the role of providing affordable loans under the auspices of CEEC, NATSAVE, DBZ etc. Even part of CDF can be channeled to such activities as it is likely to creat employment for our youth instead of bogus projects where some unscrupulous individuals are scheming to defraud the state through overpricing.

I rest my case…..

10 COMMENTS

  1. If this argument is to hold any water, then government has no business running hospitals or schools where some employees decide to be lazy knowing that nothing can happen to them.
    Is it the author’s viewpoint that government can fail to have disciplined individuals working the mines? Did we not run our own mines during KK era?

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    • Chiza – What is the difference between a Mine and a public instution like a Hospital or School? Did we not run our own mines during KK era…you ask? Did you run them profitably…were they run independently without Political interference?

  2. #1 Chiza Chirwa your point is flawed.
    Running hospitals and schools are the provision of services, and non profit making. Although in many instances the private sector are better at running them.
    Mines and other businesses are run to make a profit.
    It is known all over the world that governments are useless at running business. As is evidence in Zambia itself

    • Firstly, I appreciate your disagreement with me without resorting to name calling as is common here.
      Secondly, I would counter and say that we did manage as a government to run our own mines during kk era. That’s not in dispute.
      Privatization of our biggest industry will leave the country in the dust, similar to how medical care in the US is largely in private control and it bleeds people dry, literally. This is what could happen if we left medical care to private sector.
      We have been criticizing IMF and said we could easily raise that money if we run our own mines, and shaming our government’s ability to run the same mines at the same time?

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  3. Give me an example of a perfectly run govt department with highly motivated staff where you can’t easily be disappointed? I’ll give you CEC as an example, a firm run by private citizens.

  4. You should have given the same advise that Zambia should never borrow from IMF again. Times change, China today is not the China of 20 year ago. If we keep the same mindset as a people we will never be independent. I rest my case.

  5. The reading is a totally wrong analogy. State run government corporations are still the order of the day even in Developed Countries. Strategic corporations are still run by governments. The narrative against Government operated business is meant to blind the likes of the Author. African countries fall for the belief that their governments should not run businesses and are blinded to sell through privatisation, to businesses that are run by Western Governments.

    There are numerous examples which I cannot share on this platform.

    And of course Structural Adjustment Programs adopted by African Government indirectly advocates for retrogressive economic emancipation of Africa.

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    • In some cities in England Mayors are fighting for a UBZ type publicly run public transport companies offering low capped fares with high quality services like is the case in London with the Red Buses…the only problem we have in Zambia is too much political interference can you imagine a dull minister like Bowman Lusambo ordering a ZCCM CEO.

  6. Due to evolvement it is very possible for govt to run the mines because the mines you see today, the work force you see today is totally different to that workforce of yesteryear and sur-fa-ice to say we have a new dawn govt.Plseas stop wasting CDF money and channel it to invest in the mines,the people you are giving CDF some have never run businesses. S o think twice you govt than wasting time and money.Zambians can run the mines and it is time we trusted ourselves than depending on expatrietes .

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