A close look at how the miners have been surviving after being laid off with no meaningful packages to sustain their livelihoods.
When news broke out that Mining Companies were going to cut down on their work force due to Global Economic Recessions that saw a decline in Copper Prices on the London Metal Exchange, there was panic among the stakeholders in Zambia.
Mine Unions and other stakeholders held various consultative meetings to understand the intentions of Mining Companies. Meetings were held, decisions were made but not to the satisfaction of the Unions.
Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu developed interest and shifted to Kitwe to hold consultative meetings with the Mining Investors to see how best the issues of cutting down employment would be addressed considering economic hardships that had hit the nation.
President Edgar Lungu had shifted to the Kitwe Presidential Guest house and for over a week, the Head of State met various stakeholders, among them Chief Executive Officers of various Mining Companies and Union Leaders to find a solution to the looming job losses then in the mining industry.
Now, after all consultations were held, decisions were made and the disturbing news was broken out. Thousands of miners had already received redundancy letters and a package of K 18,000 was already waiting to see them off the mines.
Mining Companies on the Copperbelt and North Western Province had effected the Job Cuts.
The Mine Unions in Zambia negotiated for K 18,000 ex-gratia package for each of the retrenched miner, which they asked to be a stand-alone payment apart from the pension money pay by the number of years of service.
Some relief reached the ears of those who had interest to get into the Agriculture Sector as Republican President Edgar Lungu directed that all Ex Miners be allocated with farm land to help them sustain their living standards after being retrenched.
The News was received with mixed feelings with others excited while others objected the move and called it political considering that General Elections were just 9 months away.
Meetings were held among the stakeholders with an Association that was formed to oversee the welfare of Ex Miners.
Copperbelt Province Permanent Secretary Reverend Howard Sikwela called for a meeting with all Town Clerks and District Commissioners to ascertain how much farm land was available in the Province to implement President Edgar Lungu’s directive.
Lufwanyama had the biggest chunk of farm land to a tune of 20,000 hectares along the Lusuwishi River; Chingola had 4,000 Hectares in Mutimpi area while Kitwe offered Residential plots across the Kafue River.
The National Ex Miners and Allied Workers Union of Zambia was formed and registered to help capture and identify Ex Miners in all the affected towns.
Association President Taulo Chewe said that there are about 11,000 ex miners that have been captured so far.
However, the issue of farm land is still a burning issue to the Ex Miners as no single person on the Copperbelt has been allocated with land one year after the promise was made.
“We have been cheated for too long, they are just playing politics and trying to portray a wrong picture to the nation that we are well taken care of when the opposite is the fact. They don’t seem to care and we have come to a realisation that we are dealing with people that are not serious” one of the ex miners Donald Kabashila said.
“Life has been hard you can’t imagine it, some of us had acquired loans from various Banks and the K 18,000 package made no meaningful impact as am telling you some of us are in serious debts and we have no idea of how we are going to survive with the current hardships” another Ex Miners lamented.
National Ex Miners and Allied Workers Union said “On farm land on the Copperbelt people should get accurate information from us as an Association and the office of the District Commissioner, No single person has been allocated with farm land on the Copperbelt but I can confirm that the surveys are on the ground, people must understand that surveying and demarcating over 20,000 hectares cannot be done in an overnight. For Lufwanyama there is a lot of work you know that is virgin land and it is almost a forest, ZNS is opening up roads, so our members must understand the cost implications for they may not understand the challenges the surveyors are facing” he explained.
“Our job as an Association is to continue pushing so that Ex Miners can start cultivating, there is need for resources, enough man power and this is being financed by central government, those we have taken on the ground to see what is happening, they are appreciating. In Solwezi over 50 have been given farm land and like in next week we will soon start showing some members pieces of land Solwezi.
“Chingola is next, about the 300 Ex Miners may be shown plots. We are waiting for a report from the surveyors”
“102 ex miners who opted to apply for residential plots in Kitwe have been allocated with plots and have started developing. The issue of residential plots is quicker because it was done at the local level as compared to the farm land that has to be handled under the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit in Lusaka” The Association President Mr Taulo Chewe gave an update.
Mr Chewe has assured the Ex Miners not to lose hope as efforts are being made to ensure that all ex miners are empowered with land.
A Mining Expert Joseph Mwale said it was wrong for government to keep people waiting especially after assuring them that their Jobs were secure after the Head of state visited the Copperbelt.
“On the issue of them suffering, I think it’s a lesson to those still working that it is important to invest while work, most those were living luxury lives and forgot that one day they will lose employment, it’s not mockery but people must be responsible with their earnings, you find people getting loans to buy cars, that is not investment, had they invested most of the would be stable by now”. Definitely they can’t lose hope let them keep knocking on the doors of government and see if the promise made by the president can be fulfilled” he added.
By Clinton Masumba