People’s Party (PP) president Mike Mulongoti has come to the defence of late president Levy Mwanawasa over the sale of the Konkola Copper Mines to Vedanta.
Mr Mulongoti has charged that former Minister of Finance Katele Kalumba was being dishonest in blaming the Mwanawasa administration over the problems in the mining sector in the country. He said when government made a decision to sell KCM to Vedanta after Anglo America had pulled out, Dr Kalumba was the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Mwanawasa government as well as the national secretary of the MMD.
Mr Mulongoti said when ZCCM was sold to Anglo American at a price of $30 million, Dr Kalumba was the Minister of Finance and understood what the mines at the time were going through.
The People’s Party leader told the Daily Nation that it was during the time Dr Kalumba was the Minister of Finance that development agreements were signed which had awarded Anglo American tax holidays.
He said when President Mwanawasa took over, the mining sector was a disaster and needed urgent measures to save it from total collapse as government could not continue pumping money into the operations of the mine.
Mr Mulongoti said it was during the reign of Dr Mwanawasa that the development agreements which gave tax holidays were abolished and windfall tax introduced which could have benefited Zambians.
He said Zambians should know that Vedanta did not come by accident and that all multilateral organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank were consulted and approved the sale of KCM to Vedanta.
“It is not fair for Dr Kalumba to blame Dr Mwanawasa for the problems in the mining sector particularly what is happening at KCM. When ZCCM was sold to Anglo American, government was asking for $90 million but the buyers said they would only pay $30 million and that the balance would be paid from the profits. Dr Kalumba was the Minister of Finance under Dr Fredrick Chiluba. When President Mwanawasa came in, Dr Kalumba was Foreign Affairs minister and when KCM was being sold to Vedanta, we had windfall tax after abolishing the development agreements which gave the mines tax holidays. Dr Kalumba should have kept quiet on this matter as silence is golden,” Mr Mulongoti said.
Mr Mulongoti said Dr Kalumba’s reaction was not out of genuine concern but that was coming from the background that he was left out of Mwanawasa’s second administration.
He said it was Dr Mwanawasa’s position that people who were in conflict with the law could not serve in his government.
Mr Mulongoti said President Mwanawasa told the national executive committee at the time that if people voted candidates who were in conflict of the law, they would never be part of his government and that Dr Kalumba was allegedly not happy with the position.
He said although Dr Kalumba was left out of Mwanawasa’s government, he remained the national secretary of the MMD and that it was not fair to distance himself from the problems facing the mining sector.
Mr Mulongoti said he had been forced to defend Dr Mwanawasa because the late president did his best for the country and could not defend himself.
Last week, Dr Kalumba blamed Dr Mwanawasa for the problems at KCM whose owner Anil Argawal is said to have mocked Zambians over the super normal profits the mining company was making.
But KCM owners have denied ever mocking Zambians and have emphasised that the video clip was taken out of context and that Vedanta had injected $3 billion in capital investment into KCM apart from being the second largest employer in the country and the second-largest taxpayer.