GUEST ARTICLE: Political rhetoric over everything…and a bit of chamba

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POLITICIANS in Zambia are an astounding lot. Extremely rarely will a politician laud a commendable action or outcome if it makes the party in government look good. Perhaps that’s their way of providing the checks and balances that a democracy must thrive by.

Yesterday, President Hakainde Hichilema announced victory over a huge hurdle that has stood in the way of the debt restructuring every politician shouts about. Yet, the same politicians’ first reaction is to pour water on the achievement.

Take Peter Sinkamba, leader of the lightweight Green Party. His take: this is a scam and nothing real will result from it. Sinkamba believes that “intangibles” like investor confidence is jargon that will not help the country at all.

He argues that nobody is explaining to him how debt restructuring will help the country. But rather, that it will only extend the burden to future generations.

It would appear that to Mr. Sinkamba, every positive decision starts and ends with marijuana. That and selling off the country’s mining assets to pay off debt.

He’s on record advocating that ZCCM-IH should sell all the shares it owns in the mining companies to pay off the country’s debt before creditors swoop to seize the assets. He issued this “warning” and dispensed his counsel less than two years ago. Precisely, in November 2020. He also thinks that selling marijuana will end the country’s debt problem.

Only he can explain this but it would appear that he distinguishes between Mopani Copper Mines and other mining companies because after calling for selling off the family copper, he returned this year claiming that Mopani must continue to be state-run, and that no right-thinking investor would agree to pay off ZCCM-IH’s US$1.5 billion to Glencore.

Balance us, here, Mr. Sinkamba, because I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s confused. One moment you say ZCCM-IH should sell its shares in all the mining companies and the next that privatization has never yielded benefits to Zambians so Mopani must remain in the hands of ZCCM-IH. And the government must find money to recapitalize it. The same government that should not restructure its debt because nothing tangible will come out of it?

Was that because in your view, Mopani was too debt-ridden to attract any interest as opposed to the other mines with significant foreign interest, which are doing better?

Well, we are happy that his predicted doomsday has not come, but instead of him giving credit, he runs to dectract. Perhaps that’s his way of appearing to remain true to his seeming opposition to the methods the government is using to resolve the country’s money problems.

Sinkamba complains about the debt being a problem and also trashes the government’s solutions. He wants to see ganja and an auctioning of assets in the equation.

Those intangibles, Mr. Sinkamba, are part of the reason why one third of the investment commitments made for mining have been realized in less than a year.

And instead of ZCCM-IH auctioning off its stake in Mopani, it now owns 49% of a very profitable venture. What’s more, the people of Mufulira and Kitwe can wake up with more certainty about their future. To crown it, Zambia as a whole will benefit. The same asset that you wanted the government to sell to pay off its debts but also to hold on to.

We remain baffled as to what you want and more importantly, what you stand on as a leader of political party.

By Siphiwe Zulu

Kalemba March 26, 2024

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