IT IS shocking that 51 years after Independence, indigenous Zambian businesses are still fighting for recognition from their own government who prefer and are seemingly comfortable to give lucrative contracts to foreigners at the expense of locals.
Despite Kaunda’s famous Matero economic reforms of 1968, this has been going on for all these years since the advent of multi-party democracy and privitization. Each successive government since then has been a culprit in this regard. Just what is wrong with us Zambians?
Only this week it was revealed that indigenous textbook publishers are being discriminated or disregarded by the Ministry of Education who prefer to give multi-million dollar book publishing contracts to foreign-based bookshops or travelling book merchants with no or little footprint in Zambia.
Government technocrats are too happy and not even ashamed to award these contracts, using precious little foreign exchange, to foreigners when there are capable, willing and ready local businesses who are struggling to keep afloat and maintain their staff on a shoe string budget because they are ignored and discriminated by their own government officials.
The case of the Petroleum Transport Association of Zambia (PTAZ) is another heart-breaking example of a government bureaucracy that persecutes its own people. When governments all over the world put deliberate policies in place to empower their own businesses, in Zambia one is cursed to be a competitor against a foreign entity. You stand no chance; now even quasi-government companies have joined the melee.
The entire petroleum importing, delivery and distribution system is in the hands of foreigners and foreign-registered companies. Even the Zambian who has bought one fuel tanker to participate in this multi-billion dollar industry is pushed to the peripheral. Zambian fuel transporters are restricted to deliver fuel locally – from one foreign oil marketing company to a foreign-owned filling station. Now foreigners are taking over jobs of Zambian tanker drivers.
We therefore applaud the efforts of one brave lady Dora Siliya who wants to stop this rot that has compromised our sovereignty for five decades. The newly-appointed Minister of Energy has promised to empower Zambian fuel importers, transporters and drivers. She wants them to move to the centre of this critical and sensitive national exercise that cannot be entrusted in the hands of foreigners alone.
We understand the Minister of Energy wants Zambians to get fully involved, with the collaboration of the financial sector, in the importation of feedstock from the producer or supplier and load it unto a ship paid for by Zambian money up to the port of Dar es Salaam, Beira, Walvis Bay or Lobito Bay. Zambians will then lift that oil from the seaport, using their resources and ingenuity, up to Indeni oil refinery or Tazama bulk storage facilities.
Zambian rail wagons or road tankers, using Zambian drivers, will carry the fuel from whatever landing port into the country for distribution by Zambian entities.
With support from her colleagues in various line ministries, she wants the entire fuel matrix to be slowly transferred into the hands of locally controlled conglomerates so that not only should Zambian businesses benefit from this huge and highly profitable venture but that this nationally strategic undertaking should be handled and controlled by indigenous interests to enhance national economic security.
No wonder Zambian fuel transporters and tanker drivers are dancing in the streets just to imagine what Madam Siliya’s Dutch courage and singularly revolutionary foresight could do for the Zambian petroleum industry.
Zambians are fed up of playing second fiddle in their own country. It is not long ago their tormentors were saying: ‘‘Zambia kawena, mali ka mina (Zambia is yours but the money is mine)’’. And it is being enforced by their own people. What a shame.