Thursday, August 01, 2013

Mine investors have made communities worse - Church
By Misheck Wangwe in Ndola
Wed 17 July 2013, 14:00 CAT

Three Church mother bodies and some civil society organisations say mine investors have not helped the country's poor communities but have instead made them worse in the manner they conduct their business.

Speaking at a media breakfast meeting at Savoy Hotel in Ndola yesterday on behalf of the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), The Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC), Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) and Civil Society Organisations ahead of the International Mining Indaba Conference that begins tommorrow in Ndola, Reverend Petson Kabala who is the co-chairperson of the conference said mining industries had often made communities on the Copperbelt and North Western Provinces worse than they found them due to increased poverty as a result of mining activities affecting their livelihoods.

Rev Kabala said mining was an issue of social justice because its impact on lives, agriculture, rivers and air were mostly borne by the poor.

He said mining was an issue of intergenerational justice where the current burden of huge problems if not rectified would have a serious negative impact on the future.
Rev Kabala said mining should be designed to secure optimal net benefits for the citizens over the long term with lowest social environmental impact.

"Despite Zambia having an abundance of natural resources, it has continued to face the daunting high poverty levels, with the extremely poor people accounting for about 42 per cent which is 5.4 million of the total population while moderate poverty is 18.2 per cent which is 2.4 million people. The question is why are we talking about mining? We are talking about this sector because Zambia's extractive industry has been an essential and integral component of Zambia's economic development which can be traced to pre-colonial days. Mining is the backbone of the economy, the extractive sector accounts for 80 per cent of the export value of which 90 per cent is from copper exports. This sector contributes about 5.1 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 64 per cent to the balance of trade. This however is, despite the comparatively small contribution the sector makes to the treasury through tax revenues since being privatised," Rev Kabala said.

He said the corporations in the extractive sector were multinational and heavy industry players with huge resources and high technological advancements, with the international community on their side and somehow they have over the years managed to get political forces and few weak civil society organisations on their side.

"One unfortunate situation is that majority of our people are illiterate, poor and vulnerable. It remains undisputed that Zambia does not benefit as much as it should from natural resources. Currently the debate on the reintroduction of the windfall tax lingers on. It cannot be argued that it is commonly held by most Zambians that the extractive sector, especially the mining sector is befitting investors more," Rev Kabala said.

And speaking earlier, Ndola district commissioner Rebby Chanda said the PF government was working hard to change the situation to ensure that the country begins to see tangible benefits from the mines.

Chanda said this could be evidenced by the introduction of the Statutory Instrument number 55 and many other deliberate interventions that would trigger substantial benefits for the Zambian economy including the communities where mining activities were being conducted.

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