PF government spokesperson Chishimba Kambwili on Wednesday failed to calm Luanshya miners who have been put on forced leave from the closed Baluba Mine, as they jeered and booed him when he told them that the government cannot pretend that things are okay.
Following the hostile reception that President Edgar Lungu received from miners on Tuesday when he visited Mpatamatu township, Kambwili, the PF government spokesperson and Roan PF member of parliament, organised a ‘private’ meeting at Mpatamatu Sports Complex on Wednesday afternoon, where he invited the over 1,640 miners that were on forced leave due to the closure of Baluba Mine, in an attempt to clarify issues surrounding the Chinese-owned mine and the efforts that were being made by the government for them to return to work.
But immediately Kambwili started addressing the miners around 14:20 hours, the miners passed running commentaries saying, ‘tapali efyo alesova uyu, ena alelya, alifye nabiwno. Ela blamer naba union. Alifilwa ukutupela ama answer bunda bwama directives, ewalelanda ati mine tabakesale (There is nothing he is solving, he is eating, he is comfortable and he is okay with it. He should not even blame the unions. He has failed to give us answers but busy giving fruitless directives. He was the one saying the mine will not be closed),” some miners exclaimed as Kambwili arrived at the meeting.
In his preamble, Kambwili told the miners that he organised the meeting to explain the position of the government and the steps that were being taken to save their jobs.
“We cannot pretend that things are not bad, but we need to sacrifice,” Kambwili told the miners, who reacted by jeering him saying: “Iwe not ifyo wayamba ukulanda, awee! Awee! Awee! iwe Kambwili tapali ifyo ulelanda. Ubuteko bwenu namufilwa (you, not what you are telling us. No! No! No! Kambwili there is nothing you are telling us. Your government has failed us!)”
The minister had a tough time to calm the miners, who continued to pass running commentaries while he was trying to justify the government’s stance on the closed Baluba Mine and the efforts the government was making to have it reopened.
“Ba munyinane tumfwane, please, tumfwane kabili nichite explain (my brothers, let’s cooperate, please, listen I explain what we are doing). We won’t make progress if you don’t want to listen to what I am saying. We cannot pretend that things are not bad, but we need to sacrifice. Sacrifice is needed here,” Kambwili said while the miners shouted “Awee! Awee!”
Kambwili, nonetheless, continued speaking saying no single job would be lost at Baluba Mine despite its closure as the government was working closely with the investors to ensure that they get back to work.
“We are a very responsible government, these mines are yours, you are the owners and as government, we will not let you down. We are going to ensure that you start getting your full salaries and not the K900 you are getting now…it’s just unfortunate that these Chinese are too stubborn but we are glad that they have accepted that they made an error to put you on recess and the K900 they are giving you. That gives us comfort that things will be sorted out very soon. So as we speak, the unions and management have started negotiations to improve your salaries,” Kambwili said.
One of the miners, Peter Mukosha, stood in the meeting and challenged Kambwili to explain to them why he had kept on misleading them on salaries by saying Luanshya Copper Mines would start paying them full salaries when they had continued getting K900 allowance while on forced leave.
“Ba honourable pa first mwalandile ati this issue of CLM Mine management putting us on recess was null and void, and that tufwile ukuya kunchito the following day and that we are going to get our full salaries. But nothing of what you said happened. Mwatulaile ati we can even cut your finger if you were lying. Again, you assured us that the mine will not close but ama promises yonse aya tapali ayachitika. So if we were to cut your fingers today, you cannot remain with any, because nothing has worked from your promises,” Mukosha told Kambwili.
But Kambwili responded angrily to Mukosha’s challenge, a situation that incensed miners who booed and jeered him.
“If in a class you have 35 pupils and 10 are dull, you are one of them. Uli chikopo sana (you are very dull),” Kambwili told Mukosha, as the miners responded in disagreement: “Awee! Awee! Awee not ifyo mwayamba. Soveni (no, no, not what you have started, solve the) issue at hand, we want money!”
Meanwhile, the PF on the Copperbelt has blamed Kambwili for the booing and jeering that President Lungu suffered when he addressed Mpatamatu residents on Tuesday.
PF senior officials that declined to be named said Kambwili’s attitude caused the miners to boo the President.
“The President is being cheated on the state of mines in Luanshya by the same Kambwili. Yes, they booed the President but the target was Kambwili. Things here are bad, although ba Kambwili wants to portray a picture like he is popular. He is misleading the President and the miners and that is the result of what you guys saw. We are happy that you The Post reported the truth, except you missed out that the miners were booing and jeering Kambwili as well,” the PF official said.
The PF sources said President Lungu was not happy with the booing and instructed Kambwili to hold a meeting with the miners to explain the government’s position over Baluba Mine.
“The President was not happy and instructed Kambwili to address the miners [and] that is why they have gathered today. It is just some PR (public relations) that Kambwili is doing. The motive behind it is to win the votes from the miners. Things are not good for us, and we are running out of time. The miners cannot be fooled. All they want are their jobs back, nothing else,” said the source.