ACTING President Edgar Lungu says Government has no plans to take over and run the mines in order to save jobs and that the sector will remain in the capable hands of private companies.
Lungu was speaking in an interview yesterday following speculation that government would take over some mines.
“I can safely state that we have no plans whatsoever, now or in the near future, to take over any mine from anyone and run it,” Lungu said. “Our job is to run government and provide a good environment for private business to flourish and not to take over any private company.”
Lungu said what Government would always endeavour to do not only in the mining sector is to put on a “business and not a political hat” so that the markets are not adversely affected.
His statements have been echoed by Labour Minister Fackson Shamenda, who expressed confidence that there would be no job losses.
“No jobs would be lost at any mine in Zambia because the government is currently engaged in very progressive discussions with the unions, mine management and mine owners,” Shamenda said.
Shamenda, who spoke in a telephone interview with the Daily Mail yesterday, said: “It is my feeling that the government would continue embracing its policy of freeing rather than controlling the markets.
Therefore, as far as I know, no mine is being taken over as the acting President has clearly stated.”
Shamenda called for calm among workers, who he said must not fear for their jobs in the long or short term as the high-level government and business talks continue.
Mining is Zambia’s second largest employer after the public service and any sign of instability in the sector is worrying.
Lungu, however, expressed confidence that the discussions between Mr Shamenda’s office and the mines would yield positive results given the labour minister’s vast labour experience.
Vedanta recently said it may consider cutting jobs at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) but the decision has not gained ground following consultations with Government.
Meanwhile, Government has directed KCM to open dialogue with mine workers unions to find ways of mitigating the impact of high costs of production.
Government, KCM, Mine Workers Union of Zambia, National Union of Mining and Allied Workers and the United Mineworkers Union of Zambia held a joint consultative meeting on Wednesday following the proposal by the mining company to lay off 2,000 employees.
The meeting was chaired by Deputy Minister of Labour Rayford Mbulu.
This is according to a statement released in Lusaka yesterday by the Ministry of Labour.
“The parties to the tripartite meeting agreed to allow consultations within a spirit of mutual respect in order to find a lasting solution to the problem,” the statement reads in part.
It is then that KCM and the three mine workers’ unions are expected to report back to Government the progress on the matter within two weeks.
Last week, KCM indicated that it intended to lay off 2,000 workers, prompting sharp reactions from a cross-section of society.