Things are tense for PF on the Copperbelt, Chishimba Kambwili told Freedom Sikazwe and an official from the National Union of Miners and Allied Workers at Parliament building on Friday.
Kambwili, who is chief government spokesperson, was saying this in the lobby outside the chambers, while finance minister Alexander Chikwanda was on the floor of the House, giving a ministerial statement on the depreciation of the kwacha.
Kambwili was seated with three other officials upstairs near the balcony at Parliament, discussing party matters, while Sikazwe was standing but leaning over the information minister’s shoulders.
He told Sikazwe, who is Northern Province minister that the job losses on the mines were posing a threat to the PF’s survival beyond 2016.
“These people don’t know that things are bad. Things are bad for PF there. Ifintu tafilibwino. Nichifye ba union, you are still with us. Otherwise…,” he said.
“I have been telling this (Fackson) Shamenda to go and talk to the mines but the man is not doing anything. He went to his constituency recently but imagine he didn’t even get to Luanshya. We have been saying let these people talk to the mines.”
He expressed concern that the ministries responsible for mines and labour were not proactive.
“You know, one day I will just hold a briefing and tell this Shamenda off. We cannot continue like this. Ifwe twaliyiculila PF. Aba abaisa tabaishiba ifyo twaculile (We suffered for PF, these people who have joined now, don’t know how much we suffered). They don’t care,” Kambwili said.
“Me I talk when I see something wrong, I don’t care. I told the President but he said, ‘I will talk about it when I come back’. Pa Monday nkabacita brief. Bakateka baleyesha, abaletubwesha panshi ni aba bene ba labour na mines (ministries). The thing with me is that I don’t want to pretend. I don’t even know why ministers don’t want to explain to the nation what is happening in their line ministeries.”
Kambwili, who is also Roan PF member of parliament, said he was not happy with the manner in which Shamenda was handling the job losses on the Copperbelt.
“I was upset when he said, ‘We are doing something’. Bashimaini balecula cilelanda ati tulecita ifintu. Nalefwaya ukuyamutobamo (I wanted to go and hit him). I was upset when he said that. I said bushe balishiba ama politics? (do they know politics?). Things are tense. Things are tense on the Copperbelt,” said Kambwili.
And agreeing with Kambwili, Sikazwe, who is also Mpulungu PF member of parliament said it was unfortunate that some people in PF felt they had arrived.
“Kuli bena, balifika …apa tufwile twaunfwana twapanga decision elyo bakalandishyanye… Echo ndepapa cakuti bonse muleyilishanya, muleyilishanya kuli nani? (To them, they have arrived. Right now we are supposed to cooperate and make a decision to negotiate. But what is surprising me is that everyone is complaining, you are complaining to who?) What we need to do [is to] tell them [mining firms] ‘What we have observed nifi nefi so efyo twishile kuno, what do you think is the way forward?’” Sikazwe said.
He also blamed Chikwanda for not explaining the state of affairs to the nation.
“…Ba Minister of Finance teti balande. Teti bafumye ishiwi, nomba ninshi balecita? Na ba bene ba energy minister benu noti ukulabebela mumano kumutamfya. Kumwebafye ati we have no time. Na ba tucita let down. (The finance minister can’t talk. He can’t even produce a word, so what is he doing? And this one, your energy minister, you shouldn’t be telling him things diplomatically, it’s to chase him. It’s to tell him that we have no time because they have let us down),” said Sikazwe.
When Kambwili was approached to explain why he felt Shamenda and mines minister Christopher Yaluma were not doing enough to save the party, he excused himself saying he needed to rush back into the chambers.
“Call me later. I am going to the toilet and I have to rush back,” he said.
And realising that the reporter was still waiting for him in the lobby, Kambwili still refused to comment further saying, “I am rushing back inside… you can’t quote me out of hearsay.”
Meanwhile, Shamenda admitted in an interview that it had not been easy for government to hold negotiation with mines in the face of the current economic challenges.
“I have been meeting with all the mines who are facing these challenges. This is a very sensitive situation and the challenges are real. We have been meeting quietly to resolve these issues to serve jobs,” Shamenda.
“These issues are not necessarily labour challenges. These are issues pertaining also to the Ministry of Mines because they are pertaining to mining operations. The copper prices have gone down and there is the load-shedding arrangement. There is the VAT and Royalty issues which the mines have been discussing.”
He said he had met nearly all the chief executive officers of the mining firms, individually and the Chamber of Commerce and trade to plead with them and to ask them to consider other options as opposed to laying off workers.
“It’s not a matter of just telling mining firms, serve the jobs. We are trying to look at resolving our problems so that when we do that, they can return the miners. If we mess it up, we may lose all the jobs. Mind you as we serve jobs, we have to buy medicines in hospitals and build schools. It is important we don’t aggravate the volatile situation as it is,” said Shamenda.