Editor's Comment

Let’s get our future back

ZAMBIA is abuzz with the firm announcement that Government had started the process of taking over one of the country’s major mining companies, Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) on the Copperbelt.
The decision to take over the running of KCM, which is owned by the Indian giant Vedanta Resources, may have come as a shock to many citizens, but perhaps it is inevitable, and to some, especially those directly affected by the poor operations of the mine over the years, even a little too late.
Now, this bold decision by President Edgar Lungu should serve as a warning to other mining companies that have, for a long time, taken the Zambian people for granted and have continued reaping huge profits from the mineral resources, with little benefit accruing to the citizens.
The arm-twisting by the mining companies over tax should come to an end.
There is need for long-term measures to ensure that all our God-given resources – not just minerals – are protected for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children.
Already, we have a whole generation on the Copperbelt that only hears about the good old days of ZCCM, when all social and sports facilities were working, running on profits from the mines.
There is need to restore our wealth, our future and the hopes of our miners and their families.
From the time Vedanta arrived in the country, for instance, the small mining town of Chingola has only grown worse, both in infrastructure and, more significantly, people’s livelihoods have not been bettered.
The mining company always gave excuses of loss-making, yet for over a decade, it continued digging and selling. How was that possible?
Indeed something had to be done.
We should be captains of our own future, our destiny, for even fate, if it is of our own making, is better than an uncertain future in the hands of foreigners.
Of course Government has made it clear this is not nationalisation, and our hope now is that a good investor will be found to run the mine and safeguard the thousands of jobs at KCM.
Furthermore, Government should not allow the favourable investment environment cultivated over the years get eroded by what is currently obtaining in the mining sector, and following the take-over.
Of course we cannot be oblivious to the fact that such sweeping changes do come with consequences, both immediate and in the long run.
The decision by the President will likely send shocks in the financial markets, where the Kwacha is already weakened by various factors, but we should stand resolute as a nation, knowing fully well that whatever decision we make today will impact our future.
We are aware too of the impact on investor confidence, but all should know too that for a long, long time Zambia has charted the win-win route. Yet there seems to be only one winner, and it is not the Zambians.
Some of those in the opposition will obviously hold this decision against Government and try to gain political mileage, but the nation must come first.
Government should not only safeguard these mineral, but also restore the spirits of the residents in these mining towns, who have grown despondent over the years because of facing an uncertain future.
The multinationals are free to come and mine in our country, but they should always bear in mind that the resources remain ours. And they should not be the ones to dictate to us what should be done, or indeed how things should be done.
It is time to get our future back.

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