'U-turn on windfall tax begs answers'
By Gift Chanda
Fri 08 June 2012, 13:23 CAT
ZAMBIANS should demand serious answers following government's U-turn on mining windfall tax, says ActionAid country director Pamela Chisanga. And Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) acting general secretary Abraham Chikasa says Zambia would have been richer than it currently is had the country's natural resources been making adequate contribution to poverty reduction.
Meanwhile, three church mother bodies in the country have partnered with civil society organisations working in the extractive industry to press government and mining investors to ensure investments in the mining and energy sectors benefit everyone.
Speaking yesterday at a media breakfast to announce the hosting of the CSO alternative mining indaba on June 19, 2012, Chisanga said people, especially windfall tax advocates, should not be content with answers from the government such as "you are lunatics".
Finance minister Alexander Chikwanda recently said those advocating for the re-introduction of windfall tax on mines were lunatics. But Chisanga has urged Zambians to demand serious answers from the government in light of its new position on reintroducing the mining windfall tax.
The PF government has insisted it will not reintroduce the windfall tax despite several officials in the former opposition party advocating for the contentious tax in the run up to last September's general elections.
"One of the things that we have not been good at is demanding answers. We have been told it is not practical to introduce the windfall tax and I think we haven't really asked the question around what practicality they are talking about," Chisanga said.
"Can somebody break it down for us in figures so that we are able to understand that what we are calling for is indeed ridiculous…can they the government demonstrate to us so that when we look at these figures we will be able to say there is something truthful in what they are telling us."
She said the government should give practical examples regarding their new stance.
"We shouldn't be content with answers like 'you are lunatics'. Yes we are lunatics but even lunatics sometimes get to a level where they want to know," Chisanga added.
"Only when we get these answers will we be able to engage in meaningful dialogue."
Earlier, EFZ executive director Reverend Pukuta Mwanza said there was serious need to lobby the government to ensure the mining sector benefits everyone.
Rev Mwanza said Zambians were currently losing out because of profit externalisation by foreigner investors.
[True, but at the same time, they are their profits. Why are they their profits? Why are they not forced to sell the people's ore to the state at cost only basis, so the state can sell it at international market prices? That would be fair. We do not owe mining corporations a profit from our own resources. - MrK]
And Chikasa observed that the exploitation of the country's natural resources was not making adequate contributions to poverty eradication and sustainable development.
He said majority Zambians are still living in poverty despite the country's vast natural resource wealth.
"All of us clearly remember that the change of government was in large measure because of the frustration with the imbalances I have attributed to," he said.
Chikasa said the three church mother bodies, namely CCZ, Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia and the Zambia Episcopal Conference, have partnered with CSOs working in the extractive industry to engage government and investors on injustices in the mining sector.
The stakeholders have planned an alternative mining indaba which will be held at the same time as the Zambian International Mining Energy Conference between June 19 and June 22, 2012.
The indaba, which is expected to attract international CSOs in the region, is expected to give stakeholders a platform to express their frustrations over the injustices in the mining sector, according to CCZ social and economic justice programme officer Nsama Chikwanka.