Thursday, May 30, 2024

Munda Wakudala: Echoes For Vedanta To Return At Konkola Copper Mine

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By Chainga Zulu

Theatricality and deception, powerful agents against the uninitiated. – Bane (Dark Knight Rises)
Theatricality and deception can make a person or company appear to be much more than they really are in the mind of an opponent. The Russians have a military and political doctrine called “maskirovka” which means “masking,” and it’s a fitting name for a tactic that depends entirely on misrepresentation.

If you have watched the Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises), you noticed a phrase that was uttered throughout. In “Batman Begins,” the hero was told to use “theatricality and deception” as “weapons against the uninitiated.” He was being told to use small explosions and smoke to distract his opponents and gain an advantage. He took that a step further and created the Batman persona to protect those he loves from reprisal when he went after the bad guys.

As you can see, Batman wasn’t the only one using theatricality and deception. His adversaries also did, to lethal consequences: the League of Shadows released a toxin to bring fear to the people of Gotham; the Joker would use a lot of deception to play games with Batman and the Gotham, and Bane hid in Gotham’s shadows and acted from within to later hold the entire city hostage.

So, what’s all this to do with Konkola Copper Mines (KCM)? In recent times, there has been news of people calling for the return of Vedanta Resources at KCM, from unions and politicians to church and community leaders. Where are the voices that were against Vedanta barely 12 months ago during the Patriotic Front (PF) administration? Such lopsided conversations leave the simple like me – who are only interested in knowing where the next meal will come from – in the wilderness of thought. KCM being one of the two (with and Mopani Copper Mines) biggest employers in the country, only rivalled by government, there must be a vicarious vestige behind this visage of praises.

In these and many conversations, theatricality and deception manage to rope in the “uninitiated,” people who don’t know or can’t tell the difference between a real investor and a pseudo one.

For the uninitiated, KCM was first sold to Anglo American Corporation (AAC) in 1998 for US $25 million during the Government’s privatization of parastatal companies. However, before President elect Levy Mwanawasa could even finish his orientation as President in 2001, AAC ditched the mines. Enter Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta who took over KCM in 2004 for $25 million dollars for 79.4% shares with 20.6% shares remaining with ZCCM-IH on behalf of Zambians. However, in 2014 Agarwal would be caught on camera talking about his experience in Zambia and how he got the KCM for a paltry sum. In his words, “KCM is giving us $500 million every year for the last nine years and a billion on top of it”. We can hate his instantiable greed, but I respect Agarwal’s use of theatricality and deception on all Zambians with our political leaders being his main cheerleaders. That $25 million would have easily been raised by Zambians coming together or better still, listing it on the Lusaka Stock Exchange. Of course, there are others who claim that AAC also paid Zambia $20 million as recompense for breach of contract with the World Bank (contract brokers) matching it with another $20 million, bringing the total amount to $65 million. This is in addition to the investment that KCM had committed itself to make plus the taxation system which was meant to benefit Zambians. Theatricality and deception.

KCM has had its own demons to exorcise. In 2006, they were sued by a group of Zambian farmers for pollution and loss of livelihood. The suit, in the Zambia High Court, argued that KCM’s mining activities had polluted the Kafue River. The High Court ruled in the plaintiff’s favour with USD 2million in compensation. KCM appealed to the Supreme Court and the Court upheld the lower court’s verdict but without compensation. The plaintiffs escalated the matter further to UK courts and cited Vedanta as Co-defendant. The people of Hippo Pool, Kakosa, Shimulala and Hellen successfully claimed that KCM had been spilling sulphuric acid and other toxic chemicals into the Mushishima stream and the Kafue River.

This case was settled last year after more than 2,500 people received ‘undisclosed’ settlements from Vedanta. Not knowing if that settlement plan also included reclaiming the polluted rivers, farming areas and people’s health condition. Either way, money talks. Theatricality and deception.
In 2019, the government would accuse KCM of underpayment of dividends and taxes as well as underinvestment and environmental regulation breaches. After taking matters to the High Court, a provisional liquidator in Milingo Lungu would be appointed, a decision which didn’t go without Vedanta countersuing in the South African High Court. The Court called a halt of the liquidation and asked the two differing parties to exhaust the arbitration process. Theatricality and deception.

What is the way forward for KCM? How has its uncertainty impacted the entire economy? Are we able to find another investor apart from Vedanta, who would be willing to inherit a debt stock rumored to be upwards of a billion US dollars? Are First Quantum Minerals – who were rumored to be interested in investing in the mine earlier this year – really interested? Of course, they rebutted this rumour but we are initiated, aren’t we? Are China Nonferrous Metal Mining Group (CNMC) which had expressed interest in 2019 still interested? Zambia should try to secure greater benefits from these natural resources or the verdict by posterity will undoubtedly be harsher on us for mortgaging it.

In choosing between feeding the people and political economics, people ought to come first. Always. A hungry man must be fed first before being initiated. This by no means warrants us throwing away our resources to anyone promising investment, but that which gets people fed is basic and urgent. Always. And in this case, it’s having KCM operate normally to provide jobs to people, markets to contractors and contribute to the economy. Maybe, just maybe, Vedanta may be the only solution there because it’s Munda Wakudala. After all, like a typical erstwhile lover, they are promising to step up investment and implement several social responsibility programmes if allowed to resume control. But Zambians are initiated now, aren’t we?

But what do they say about going back to your ex?

2 COMMENTS

  1. We Zambians should ask our selves a few questions like:
    1. After almost a century of mining what is still lacking in us to profitably run the mining industry? In my experience working in the mining industry of America, Europe and Australia I have found that Zambians are just as good and in many cases better. We just have to learn to give jobs on merit and avoid manpower misplacement. We also need to be a little more accountable and patriotic.
    2. Why do the so called investors keep using our resources to enrich themselves from almost nothing to a point where they are able to buy our mines for a song?
    3. Why don’t we have innovations coming out of our universities that will add value to the natural resources Zambia is endowed with? We need the universities to impart skills in…

  2. KKKKKKK DONT GO BACK TO YOUR VOMIT.YOUR EX MAY CHANGE AND MAKE THINGS WORK SO ITS YOU TO CHOOSE THE WAY YOU LOOK AT THINGS THE WAY THEY ARE UNFOLDING.

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