THE directive by Labour and Social Security Deputy Minister, Rayford Mbulu for KCM and mineworkers unions to open dialogue is a step in the right direction.
The minister directed the KCM and the three unions – Mine Workers Union of Zambia, National Union of Mining and Allied Workers and United Mine Workers Union of Zambia to open dialogue and find ways to mitigate the high cost of production to prevent the proposed job cuts at the mining firm.
Government has since given KCM and the unions a two-week ultimatum in which to find ways of averting the retrenchment of workers.
Mining is Zambia’s second largest employer after the public service and any sign of instability in the sector is worrying and therefore calls for stakeholders to urgently find a lasting solution in the most civilized and constructive manner.
Dialogue is indeed critical if a long lasting solution is to be found to the looming job cuts at KCM.
Dialogue as a tool for conflict resolution will help clear any misunderstandings among stakeholders while acting as brainstorming forum for coming up with new and innovative solutions to the problem. Both sides will have an opportunity to table their concerns while suggesting possible solutions.
As KCM and unions open dialogue they should bear in mind that Zambians are looking for a long lasting solution that will secure the many threatened jobs by ensuring sustainable operation of the mining firm.
It is the responsibility of all stakeholders to ensure that this dialogue is managed well to deliver the much desired results.
The agreement by stakeholders comprising Government, KCM and the three national mineworkers unions to allow consultations within the spirit of calmness, mutual respect and responsibility is reassuring and illuminates hope, especially for the KCM workers whose livelihood is at stake.
We are very optimistic that the consultative discussions among the stakeholders will invent better ways of sorting out the financial problems at KCM rather than embarking on a mass job cut.
In the spirit of patriotism, we hope that experts in the mining industry and indeed other relevant faculties will come on board to help save jobs.
While Government, KCM and mineworkers unions engage in high level talks to find a durable solution, it is prudent for workers at the mining firm to heed to the calls of Labour Minister, Fackson Shamenda to stay calm.
THE Zambian gemstone industry has the capability of turning the lot of this country around. We have heard this song over and over again but nothing has changed much for our brothers and sisters who live in gemstone-rich areas such as Lufwanyama on the Copperbelt.
Illegal miners especially of emeralds have come and left this country wealthy as the country is robbed of millions of US dollars every year.
To help address this, the first ever emerald summit in Zambia opened in Lusaka on Thursday with Mines deputy minister Richard Musukwa reiterating Government’s commitment to cleaning up the emerald sector.
The summit is a step in the right direction as it is aimed at facilitating dialogue between key stakeholders.
Illegal traders have been warned that they will no longer go scott-free and government hopes to partner with the Emerald and Semi-Precious Stones Mining Association of Zambia (ESMAZ) to help small-scale miners and crackdown on illegal traders.
This effort should not only be left to Government and ESMAZ but the people in these precious stone-rich areas should also be alert.
Why, for example, should villagers be paid as little as KR400 for a sack of semi-precious stones in Chama, for example while the illegal traders who buy from them make much, much, much more.
We have heard that some residents of areas such as Chama actually believe and say it out loud that, “you cannot make money from stones.”
The question for these people is why are foreigners flocking to precious and semi-precious stone-rich areas if they are worthless or have very little value?
We are, therefore urging chiefs, members of Parliament, miners and government officials in these areas to educate the people so they can stop giving away the country’s wealth for pittance.
And it is sad that out of 400 gemstone licences issued only 10 mines are operating because most small-scale miners cannot afford equipment, among other challenges.
These challenges need to be addressed so these mines can be secured to help curb plunder. These small-scale miners need to be funded and we urge banks to come on board so that more Zambian miners are empowered and more jobs are created.
Government needs all the help it can get to ensure these precious