Monday, December 30, 2013

Chitala urges opposition to support Sata on KCM

By Allan Mulenga, Noel Iyombwa and Abigail Chaponda in Ndola
Thu 07 Nov. 2013, 14:01 CAT

MORE than 70 workers have received letters of termination of employment from Konkola Copper Mines (KCM). On Monday, President Michael Sata warned KCM not to lay off workers and warned that he would revoke KCM's mining licence if the mine dared to lay off even one miner.

According to letters of termination to some employees at Konkola shaft number one that had been sent earlier before President Sata's warning, made available to The Post, and signed by Eve Banda KCM manager for human capital and management(HCM) at Konkola, the mine advised that the affected employees (76 in total) should see respective HCM business partner for exit formalities.

One of the letters dated September 19, 2013 and addressed to Kazarous Kanengoki mine number 2004348 stated that either party may terminate the agreement by giving the other party 30 days written notice.

"Reference is made to the termination of contract clause in the offer of fixed term contract of employment with KCM which is either party may terminate this agreement by giving the other party 30 days written notice. Accordingly we wish to advise that your contract of employment will be terminated effective October 19, 2013.Your last working shift will therefore be on the same date. In accordance with the terms and conditions of your contract, terminal benefits will be calculated as follows; wages worked for, gratuity at 11 per cent, accrued leave pay and Christmas bonus," one the several the letters given to one of the workers.

President Sata had said KCM chief executive officer Kishor Kumar would be sorted out if he wanted to blackmail government.

Speaking ahead of a Cabinet meeting, President Sata said KCM wanted to blackmail the government after it stopped the company exporting copper concentrates.

Kumar last Friday announced plans to carry out outplacement of 1,529 employees as the mining giant pursued a mechanisation programme for all its operations.

And Dr Mbita Chitala has advised opposition political parties leaders to avoid politicising President Sata's stance on the proposed layoff of over 1,500 workers at Konkola Copper Mines.

So far, key opposition leaders such as MMD's Nevers Mumba, National Movement for Progress' Ngandu Magande and Alliance for Better Zambia's Frank Bwalya have spoken on KCM's intention to cut over 1,500 jobs at Nchanga underground. Others like UPND have been quiet.

Mumba urged KCM to reduce their rhetoric in the media and seek for talks with the government.

Magande said President Sata's warning to KCM to revoke the mining licence was a wake up call to other mining companies.

Bwalya said the threat to revoke the licence could create instability in the mining industry.

And in an interview yesterday, Dr Chitala, who is Zambia Research Foundation director, urged politicians to come together and safeguard the interests of the nation.

"This is not partisan at all. It is the national issue where all political parties should agree on how we could use what God gave us to end our poverty and underdevelopment. This is where all the politicians unite until they defeat the enemy and continue with politics after that is done," he said.

"It will be sad and unforgivable that we who are in charge of our country, we leave nothing other than environmentally hazardous holes, where copper have been taken away to other countries which are smarter than us."

Dr Chitala advised the government through ZCCM Investment Holdings, to increase shareholding capacities in all mining firms.

"These development agreements these mining firms were supposed to offload to list on the stock exchange to enable Zambians to buy, none of them have done that. By this time we should have more than 30 per cent in shares all the mines, but there is nothing like that. We need to increase our ownership of the mines, but nothing is happening. Right now the shares vary, three per cent, some are 20 per cent, some five per cent, some 10 per cent and so on," he said.

"It is not much. We need to increase our shareholding in these companies and also allow shares as we agreed to be quoted on the stock exchange. My suggestion will be the minimum of 30 per cent shares from every mine should be floated so that our middle class can also be participating in development porgrammes."

Dr Chitala said the government should start buying back the shares to get controlling interests in the industry.

"We have a challenge as a country now that we must adopt programmes anchored on nationalism where we can use these minerals to contribute to economic development of Zambia. The time to advance nationalism has come again. We have ZCCM IH as the government which has shares in all these mining companies," he said.

"They must start buying back the shares so that we are able to get controlling interests in the industry. Furthermore, they must use their powers as directors of these mines to safeguard the interests of our country. The minister of finance has got a golden share, we have never heard it being used to safeguard our interests as a country."

Dr Chitala said the government should ensure that Zambians benefit from the availability of natural resources.

"Our country is blessed with copper and cobalt where we get more than 80 per cent of export earnings. And in the same way Angola has oil, Arab nations have oil, Botswana has diamond, even us God gave us copper and cobalt and we should not even be sorry about it. We should use these resources to tackle poverty and underdevelopment. If we do not use these resources wisely, we shall remain poor. It is only copper that can enable Zambia quickly accumulate surpluses and allows us as a country to fight poverty and underdevelopment," said Dr Chitala.
"Copper is a waste asset, meaning within 60 years it will be gone and the multi-national corporations mining our copper will go back to their countries, leaving us with environmentally hazardous holes on the ground to our children."

Meanwhile, Australian Ambassador to Zambia Matthew Neuhaus has advised politicians in Zambia not to undermine the mining industry because doing so may not be good for the economic development of the nation.

During a visit to Northern Technical College (NORTEC) in Ndola on Wednesday, Ambassador Neuhaus said undermining the mining industry is not good for Zambians and institutions like NORTEC which produce the skills absorbed by the mining industry.

"There is a populous of some sort of politicians who want to undermine the mining industry sector, that is not good for Zambia and the people of Zambia and institutions like yourself (NORTEC) who produce the skills for Zambia and growing prosperity of Zambia," he said.

Ambassador Neuhaus however, described the economic outlook for Zambia as fantastic saying his country would stand by Zambia in its continued development.

"As long as Zambia continues to take the path it has taken over the decade, it will be indeed the star of Africa. Your GDP is two times more than Zimbabwe, your economic growth is fantastic, obviously, it's important that those policies continue," he said.

Ambassador Neuhaus said he was impressed with First Quantum Minerals (FQM) for adding value to its cathodes and that the mine was doing well in the area of value addition technologies.

"I was impressed when I went to Kansanshi mine to see the value addition that they have done to the cathodes. I must say that it is short sighted of those who object to exporting some of the existing copper until the smelter is there, you need cash flows to be able to develop further, so if your aim is value addition, you have to build from where you are and then encourage the technology that is there," he said.

He said FQM was able to do well because the mine was always looking at technical things.

"So I think there has been some ill-informed debate in some of the press of late here, but we will stand by Zambia for continuing development of the country and we want to help them. We want Zambia to be running the industries; it should be Zambian entrepreneurs into the future who will be putting together the capital," he said.

Ambassador Neuhaus further said it was important to maintain investor friendly approaches because it was Zambians who are benefiting.

He, however, said the new Australian government knows that a lot of development assistance has been wasted in the past and that the country wanted to focus on helping Zambia in areas like Aid for Trade.

Ambassador Neuhaus said Australia's focus was not on trade zones which get special privileges and deny the rest of the country development, adding that the whole country should be a trade zone.

He said trade zones were an excuse for one or two people to make money for themselves adding that Australia did not need the concept of trade zones that the country had been hearing about.

"Our focus is on supporting institutions like NORTEC and supporting companies that are building towns in remote areas like what the mines are doing and spreading the wealth throughout the country; we don't want to see it (wealth) sitting in Lusaka, we want to see it across the country, we want to see those areas that are producing the Copper and other minerals to diversify too; we want to see those areas benefiting as well," said Ambassador Neuhaus.

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