By Potipher Tembo
SOON after being elected, Zambia’s sixth president, Edgar Lungu has been challenged by citizens living in mine areas to pay more attention to their problems.
Those who talked complained that for a long time now, they had not benefited from the mineral wealth. They said now that President Lungu was at the helm, he should look at ways that would enable Zambians benefit from the many mines the country was endowed with.
Zambia’s main bread winner, they contended, was mining but that citizens were not benefiting much from them. President Lungu should ensure citizens benefited from the national cake.
The miners appealed to the President to talk to mine owners about the importance of having citizens benefit from the industry and the need for them to enjoy working for the mines.
Recently, the Mine Workers Union of Zambia (MUZ) appealed to Mr. Lungu to gain the people’s trust and demonstrate that he was action-oriented.
MUZ general secretary, Joseph Chewe said President Lungu was expected to act with boldness on the mining sector to ensure that Zambians begin to see reasonable benefits out of their mineral wealth.
Mr Chewe said mine workers and the general citizenry wanted to see pragmatic steps taken by the government to protect the jobs of Zambians through clear government policy directives and a tax regime that would not suffocate foreign direct investment in the sector.
The same sentiments were echoed by First Quantum Minerals (FQM) which said the new government should come up with business-friendly policies that will stimulate investments in the mining sector.
FQM head of government affairs, John Gladstone said the mining sector was looking forward to getting back to business after the ended elections.
Mr Gladstone said president Lungu should help create policies that were good for economic growth and friendly to investors.
“We are looking forward to business as usual. We are hopeful to see business-friendly policies from the new government,” said Mr Gladstone adding that policies in the mining sector would help the industry contribute to job creation.
In October last year, government said it was keen to ensure a win-win situation in the mining industry by tackling concerns of mine owners while ensuring the environment remained favorable to attract increased investment.
Mines, Energy and Water Development Deputy Minister, Richard Musukwa said for the mining industry to be viable, guaranteeing a friendly environment remained cardinal for the benefit of both the government and mine owners.
Mr Musukwa pointed out that the mining industry was the backbone of Zambia’s economy and as such, the government wanted the sector to continue being viable.
President Lungu recently directed the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) Commissioner- General, Berlin Msiska to expedite dialogue with mine owners and promptly resolve the impasse over the new mining tax regime.
He issued the directive after he addressed a special session of Cabinet to consider the impasse over the new mining tax regime and the outstanding Value Added Tax(VAT) refunds for mining companies.
President Lungu wanted an amicable settlement that must end in a win-win outcome for both the mining companies and the people of Zambia.
He directed that in light of the existing legal dilemma regarding claims that had already been submitted, new negotiations must be opened to address mechanisms under which any payment would be settled.
“I want to see increased dialogue and increased flow of information that in fact we have been talking to the mine owners over these matters. We have to make this clear so that we can forestall the falsehoods that some people are peddling to poison public perception regarding this matter.
“The ultimate aim is to protect jobs and keep mines profitable at the same time. We must also maintain the country’s right to collect due taxes,” President Lungu said.
With mining being the backbone of the country, it is inevitable for all stakeholders – government, mine owners, mine workers and the general citizenry to work hand in hand to achieve the desired goals.