THINGS are getting worse on the Copperbelt despite President Edgar Lungu’s six-day visit, says Fr Richard Luonde.
The Kitwe-based Anglican priest said if he was to rate President Lungu’s visit, he would give him zero out of 10 because there was nothing he achieved apart from seeing for himself how people were ready to boo and jeer him for failing to protect their interests in the mines.
Fr Luonde said there would be a serious financial crisis by January 2016 because many people would have no money to take their children to school because many parents on the Copperbelt had no jobs.
“Thousands of young people will not enter college or university because their parents will be jobless. Bursaries are only offered to relatives of those in government. Now where does a poor Zambian stand? And somebody today is saying their visit to the Copperbelt was a resounding success, that’s fooling people. Things are getting worse on the Copperbelt. People will not eat promises, hence the reaction of miners in Luanshya,” he said. “For me, I will give him a zero because no one has gone back to work since his visit. Those that were laid off are still laid off; those that were on forced leave because the mine was closed are still home. Let them give the nation the numbers of those that have been re-employed following the President’s visit. There is nothing! Reports still indicate that Mopani Copper Mines has not backpeddled on retrenchments. It’s still determined to meet its targets of retrenching about 4,000 miners. So what has changed? And that excludes the contracts that have been terminated in these mines and people are on the streets.”
Fr Luonde said what was happening in the mines looking at the job losses was a calamity to the miners’ families.
He said the nation was in need of serious minds that would sort out the mess and not those that were playing to the gallery with people’s livelihoods.
“President Lungu came here and he insulted the labour leaders, the unionists who have tried to protect the miners. But you see, he is the one agitating the situation. Even those employers would have the audacity to tell the unions anything they feel like. Zambian employees have been disrespected and nothing has changed,” Fr Luonde said.
He said it was extremely sad that while people were losing jobs, prices of basic commodities had skyrocketed by almost 60 per cent, with not less than 10,000 people losing their jobs.
Fr Luonde said many Zambians on the Coppperbelt could have been happy with President Lungu if his visit led to the immediate reinstatement of those that were laid off and the reopening of Baluba Mine in Luanshya where over 1,600 workers were sent on forced leave.
“For President Lungu to say that he has scored eight out of 10, it’s more like he is fooling Zambians. Where is he getting that eight from? Lintu abantu balya batamfya ba bwelela pa nchito elo wingema no kulanda ati you have achieved this (it’s when people go back to work that one can claim that they have scored success),” said Fr Luonde. “It’s not that those that booed President Lungu were being disrespectful; it’s because they are telling him that ‘you are our father; if you cannot fight for us, who is going to do it?’ That’s a sign of failure from President Lungu.”