THE story of the contaminated crude oil supplied by Gunvor can not be allowed to rest without full exposure. It is not a matter that can be swept below the carpet. The truth must be told and those responsible must be brought to account.
A forensic investigation must be undertaken to ensure determine the source of contamination and if indeed it was accidental or intended to cripple this country economically.
The facts are very clear, Indeni received contaminated feedstock with very high acidic content leading to corrosion of the pipes at the plant and in the process causing shutdowns with expensive repair cost, including additional processing costs on account of chemicals used neutralize and cleanse the contamination.
A thorough forensic investigation must be undertaken to assure Zambians that the delivery was not a deliberate act of sabotage along the 1,710 kilometers of the pipeline starting from the Single Point Mooring terminal at the outer anchorage in Dar es Saalam to Tiper Refinery and then Indeni Refinery in Ndola.
Gunvor has been magnanimous but certainly not categorical in admitting that a wrong consignment was destined for Zambia. They have instead chosen to cooperate by apparently meeting the bill of Indeni repairs and for the requisite chemicals to neutralize the feedstock.
In commerce this does not mean accepting liability which can only be definitively ascertained if an assay or quality test was undertaken at the point of discharge. In our view this should be the routine to ensure the quality of crude imported into the country.
The former high commissioner to Tanzania, General Shikapwasha almost suggested as much when he debated the issue in parliament. He alluded to onboard inspection of crude oil destined for Zambia.
If this is not being done it constitutes a serious omission for which the Tazama authorities must be held accountable.
Every import must be inspected for quality. This is a standard practice for all cargo. SGS the inspections unit was specifically meant for this purpose.
If indeed Tazama accepted the crude by mistake questions must be asked about the competence of those running the pipeline because damage reflecting at Indeni must be present in the rest of the pipeline meaning that the overall cost to Zambia will be extremely high.
If on the other hand Gunvor supplied to specification, contamination must have occurred in between Tiper Refinery and Indeni in Ndola.
Whatever the case, the absence of laboratory tests through the pipeline suggests a serious case of incompetence that should lead to severe disciplinary measures against those responsible.
Contamination of the magnitude suffered by the refinery is a clear testimony of dereliction of duty that must not be countenanced because doing so would make those in authority accomplices to a crime against the Zambian people. That is why we hope that government will undertake a thorough investigation whose results will be made public so as to allay any fears of sabotage or indeed collusion with those who want to see this country fail.