Friday, December 12, 2008

FFTUZ opposes plans to ‘privatise’ Zamtel

FFTUZ opposes plans to ‘privatise’ Zamtel
Written by Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Friday, December 12, 2008 4:26:34 AM

THE Federation of Free Trade Unions (FFTUZ) has expressed opposition to the intended partial privatisation of Zamtel Limited by the government.

Commenting on the announcement by communications minister Dora Siliya that the government was going to partially offload some shares in Zamtel to private investors as part of the rescue plan for the financially beleaguered company, FFTUZ president Joyce Nonde wondered why the government was rushing on a privatisation programme when it was very clear the exercise had been a disaster in the past.

Nonde said the fact that highly capitalistic countries like United States and United Kingdom were now nationalising other privately-owned institutions and financial institutions in the name of protecting national interest spoke volumes about the future of privatisation in the world.

“You can’t privatise Zamtel. You know information is vital. As FFTUZ you know our position on privatisation. We strongly feel about this and we strongly oppose this move by the government just like we opposed the privatisation of Zesco,” Nonde said. “Look at what the effects of privatisation in the country are. We are having these mealie-meal problems because everything is in the hands of the private sector. Just look at what is happening on the Copperbelt, mining companies are now trying to blackmail the government by laying off workers on the basis of copper prices when in actual fact what they want is to compel the government to backpedal on the new taxation (new mining fiscal regime) and here we are taking some more companies to the private hands.”

Nonde maintained that Zamtel was a financially viable company which had been wrecked by, among other things, the government’s failure to pay its obligations to the telecommunications company.

“Instead of rushing to privatise, the way out is to ensure we increase the checks and balances in Zamtel. But it is incorrect for anyone to suggest that Zamtel is unviable,” she said.

And Nonde dismissed assertions by Siliya that the government would want Zamtel’s privatisation to take the route of Zanaco sell to Rabobank which the government described as a successful transaction.

“What success are they talking about in the privatisation of Zanaco Plc? The bank (Rabobank) is barely laying the ground and you are saying it has been a success. What success?” asked Nonde. “Now it is a disaster because the financial sector in the country is completely in the hands of the private sector and already we are seeing how Zambians are struggling to get access to loans. You find that now foreigners are finding it easier to access money from our local banks than our own Zambians. Our people are having difficulties because too much is being demanded from them…you find that they will tell you that even your house is not enough to get collateral…people have to move with everything like payslips, what about those who don’t work. Zambians can’t access loans?”

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