You are encouraged to read the entire article if you wish to appreciate what has motivated me to share with you this opinion. But first of all, do allow me to start with what the leader of the biggest opposition party in the country, Mr. Hichilema, has posted over the gold mining saga. He wrote, “Hypocrisy is talking about empowering Zambians on one hand while on the other, you are giving away a precious resource like a gold mine to foreigners for a song. Bally will fix it. HH.” I am equally against gold mining rights being granted to any foreigner but let’s be sober over this very sensitive national issue because what Zambians deserve is the truth and I am of the view that Mr. Hichilema has chosen to mislead the nation for political expedience.
Firstly, government has not sold any gold mine whatsoever to any foreign firm and for a song. A foreign company, Karma Mining Services, came to Zambia, applied for a prospecting or exploration licence for gold and it was given, in line with the current laws of our country. Now that it has found the precious mineral resource, it has every right to apply for a mining license and start mining operations in accordance with the provisions of the mining licence which it applied for and equally got. It would be daylight robbery on the part of Zambia to hault its operations at this stage after having obtained licencing fees.
Secondly, the amount Mr. Hichilema, a learned economist, is referring to, as selling a mine for a song, is not a selling price but the estimated mining operations cost by the company based on the investment it is ready to start with. This money is not going to government. Government’s proceeds from Karma Mining Services are strictly limited to licensing fees for now and taxes when Consolidated Gold Company Zambia (CGCZ) starts its mining operations.
ZCCM-IH has not sold any mine to Karma Mining Services but rather has invested in Karma, an offer it would have refused if it had so desired. Given that Karma is an international company with other business assets elsewhere and ZCCM-IH’s interest being specifically in the proceeds from its gold operations in Zambia, the two firms decided to set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), the CGCZ, in which ZCCM-IH owns 45% and Karma Mining Services owns 55%. Had ZCCM-IH not invested in Karma Mining Services, you probably would not have heard about the operations of Karma Mining Services’ gold operations in Zambia and government’s income from its operations would have been limited to taxes whilst now, it’s equally a shareholder.
Today, every Zambian who has shown displeasure at the government’s awarding of the mining licence to Karma must be ready to get a healthy share of the blame too. It should categorically be stated that there is currently no law that prohibits a foreigner from engaging in gold mining in Zambia and so any unilateral decision by government to stop the operations of CGCZ will not only be illegal but will send a very bad message to the international business community and may suffocate future Foreign Direct Investment. So instead of misleading the nation, what should Mr. Hichilema, and maybe the rest of the opposition, do?
He must refrain from using UPND MPs as his “special purpose vehicle” to attain his political ambitions but rather see them and encourage them to be people’s representatives. When Parliament resumes, let him ask them to take our voice to Parliament about our desire to restrict mining rights of selected mineral resources to only Zambians. We must be a country of laws, prioritising result oriented debates over the current political rhetoric. Let him make an appointment with President Edgar Lungu, away from the eyes of social media, to debate legislation on what must be done by Zambians and what foreigners may apply for.
Of late, I have spent a lot of time explaining how the current political system has failed us since the collapse of the one party participatory democracy. It’s very clear that the purpose of the opposition in this setup is to gain power at any cost even if it means misleading the masses. That’s not the meaning of democracy. The word democracy, which derives from the Greek word “demos” meaning “the people”, means people participating in the important societal decisions which affect their lives.
But since in the actual setup, each individual cannot meaningfully participate in decisions for the whole, it has come to mean decision-making by “MPs”, who are said to decide and act on behalf of the people. So let’s put it on record that Mr. Hichilema’s failure to provide proper checks and balances, is at the centre of some of the important issues we have relegated to being only social media topics. It’s very clear that Mr. Hichilema’s interest in this is to gain political mileage ahead of the 2021 General Elections instead of prioritising what Zambians need beyond the 2021 General Elections. Politics should not be a self preservation tool but a vehicle for development.
Government is composed of both the ruling party and the opposition political parties. Let the opposition own up and take responsibility by providing proper checks and balances. They can choose to complain or provide solutions. They say if choose to hang out with chickens, you’re going to cluck and if you hang out with eagles, you’re going to flyo. It’s all a matter of choice.
Mpandashalo Evans Mwewa
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