Former Finance Minister Dr. Katele Kalumba says that the administration of late Levy Mwanawasa messed up the sale of Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) by selling cheaply to president of Vendetta Resources of India at the time the copper prices at the international market were doing well.
And Dr. Kalumba has described Vendatta chairman the buyer of KCM Anil Argawal as not a sincere man for mocking Zambians after making huge profits from a mine he purchased at a cheap price.
In an interview with the Daily Nation, Dr. Kalumba said that he found it shocking and surprising that some individuals who were given jobs by the late president were now struggling to defend the sale of KCM to Vedanta Resources of India.
Dr. Kalumba who supported the privatization of the mining giant said that the MMD under Mwanawasa should have found an equity partner rather than bringing in Vedanta who have not contributed anything to the Zambian mining sector.
He explained that the privatization of KCM was the best option any reasonable government willing to save jobs and allow the mine full operation would have taken time when copper prices at the London Metal Exchange were low.
“We needed to privatize the mine looking at the financial data government had by then. The mines were not making profits and the assets were almost a sorry sight. Copper prices had gone down and our financial analysts by then working for the Zambia Privatization Agency advised on the steps to be taken,” he said.
Dr. Kalumba explained that at the time the experts explained that ZCCM should be sold in the shortest possible time of no more than four months and needed a willing buyer and an extremely willing seller as funding and time for the mine was critical.
“If it failed government would have had no option but to close up the company because it was not making profit. And that would have been done by liquidating the company. The scenario was different under the MMD of the late Mwanawasa administration,” said Dr. Kalumba.
Dr. Kalumba said that he still remained surprised and shocked that despite the leadership then having the basis of demanding what the mines was worth they ended up giving it away and now Zambians were being mocked.
And Dr. Kalumba expressed shock to hear KCM chairman Mr. Argwal mocking Zambia but described him as foolish.
“I am shocked to hear the company chairman today laughing at us because we had all valuable resources to negotiate but failed. I don’t understand why we had to go for that. Agrwal is being foolish by mocking us when he refused to renegotiate. He must know that this was the worst venture we entered into,” said Dr. Kalumba.Dr. Kalumba also said that demanding for a government takeover of KCM would not help the country as the move was not viable anymore.He said that Zambians should be mindful that the country was running at a backlog of about US$4.8 billion debt, adding that what was needed was for government to look for viable mining houses and not makeshift entities such as Vedanta.
“Vedanta has not brought any value to the mining in the country and that is what I call katemba kind of arrangement,” he said.