Zambia dismisses rumours about currency controls

Kennedy Gondwe

BBC Africa, Lusaka

Dollar notes
Getty Images

The Zambian government says it has no plans to re-introduce exchange controls in a bid to stop the plummeting value of the local currency against major convertible currencies.

The Zambian kwacha has hit its lowest level against the US dollar since November 2015, making it Africa’s worst-performing currency.

Following its poor performance, speculation has been rife that the government may look to reintroduce exchange controls as a mitigating measure.

However, Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe said in a statement that she wished to "assure both local and foreign investors, businesses, and the general public, and categorically state that the government is not about [to] and will not re-introduce exchange controls".

The statement said the government had received reports of "unscrupulous persons" spreading false information implying that exchange controls are about to be re-introduced in Zambia, and "that foreign currency accounts held in our banking system will be converted into kwacha".

Ms Mwanakatwe said her government remains committed to maintaining the current “flexible exchange rate regime". Zambia, which relies on mining as the main economic activity, has also experienced upheavals in that sector.

Zambian football legend fights for Caf seat

Kennedy Gondwe

BBC News, Lusaka

Kalusha Bwalya
Kalusha Bwalya is a former African player of the year

A stand-off has developed between Zambian football legend Kalusha Bwalya and Andrew Kamanga, the president of the Football Association of Zambia (Faz).

Bwalya has announced his intention to run again for the Confederation of African Football (Caf) executive member position.

But Kamanga has also but forward his candidacy - though only one candidate can be entered from the same country for the position that covers the southern African region.

In order for Bwalya to defend his current post, which he has held since 2011, he will need to get a nomination letter from Faz.

He has challenged Faz to allow him and Kamanga to present their manifestos to the Faz executive committee, after which members can vote for their preferred candidate.

“If we have to follow the statutes of Caf and Fifa about transparency, then the easiest would be for Faz to call a meeting. When one is aspiring for a position then we should call an executive committee meeting,” Mr Bwalya told journalists at the weekend in Lusaka.

“Afterwards the seven members can vote for their preferred candidate and the winner from that simple democratic process can be backed by the executive committee.”

Faz general secretary Adrian Kashala has said the association had no problem with Bwalya’s suggestion.

However, he stressed whoever wanted to stand from Zambia would be subjected to an integrity test - something that Caf has not asked member associations to do.

There are fears that the integrity test by Faz is targeted at disqualifying Bwalya who was banned from "all football-related activities" by Fifa for violating the federation's ethics.

It followed an investigation into his links to banned Qatari official Mohammed Bin Hammam.

The ban "focused principally on benefits that Mr Bwalya had received from Mr Bin Hammam", Fifa said.

Bwalya has always denied any wrongdoing.

Zambia’s Sports Minister Moses Mawere has said he will meet both Bwalya and Kamanga to find a solution.

The deadline for the nominations is at the end of this month. The election takes place in July.

Zambia warns non-compliant mining firms

Kennedy Gondwe

BBC News, Lusaka

Foreign mining firms have vast operations in copper rich Zambia
Foreign mining firms have vast operations in copper rich Zambia

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu has ratcheted up his pressure on foreign mining companies to comply with a recently introduced sales tax or stop their operations.

He said he was unhappy that some mining companies in the northern Copperbelt region were downsizing operations and firing workers, partly because of the new tax.

He singled out Mopani, the local unit of mining giant Glencore and Konkola Copper Mines KCM, owned by Vedanta Resources Limited.

The government has a stake in both local companies but Mr Lungu said that the government had started the process of disengaging its investment in KCM, reports the state-owned Zambia Daily Mail.

Mr Lungu said KCM and others had told him “lies” that they would increase their investments.

“Like I said, it is a process. It starts with the desire, the will and the heart. There is no question about our resolve to divorce KCM,” Mr Lungu said as he addressed journalists and ruling party supporters after winding up his tour of the Copperbelt region over the weekend.

“And we have filed that notification. So as I go back to Lusaka, we will have a cabinet meeting tomorrow [Monday]. I will brief my colleagues about my trip and ensure that the other processes start.”

KCM said in a statement that it was aware of the president's comments but had not received an official communication about his plans.

It said that it had sought to an "urgent meeting with the president or the minister of mines".

The company said that it had invested $3bn ($2bn) in Zambia and employed 13,000 people and that it also operates other corporate social programmes like hospitals and schools.

It added that it was yet to make a profit on its investment since its acquisition in 2004.

"The company is yet to receive a positive return on this investment while, on the other hand, taxes, duties, fuel and other power costs have risen exponentially," the statement said.

Glencore has not yet commented.

Mr Lungu asked miners at KCM to protect assets from being stripped.

Vendata, the largest mining company in India, is being sued by people living in the Copperbelt for pollution in what has become a high-profile case at the High Court in the UK.

The company denies any wrongdoing.

William Chani
Locals in northern Chigola town held a march to support Mr Lungu's hardline against the foreign mining firms

'You can go,' Zambia's president tells mining firms

Kennedy Gondwe

BBC Africa, Lusaka

Mining company site
Getty Images
Some mining firms have been accused of exploiting Zambians

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu has challenged mining companies that are unhappy with government policies to leave the country.

Mr Lungu is particularly unhappy with Mopani, the local unit for Glencore and Vedanta’s Konkola Copper Mines (KCM).

“I came for one reason, the people of Copperbelt want a divorce between themselves and the copper mining companies, KCM and Mopani,” he said on Friday as he arrived in the country’s Copperbelt region.

Vendata, the largest mining company in India, is being sued by people living in the Copperbelt for pollution in what has become a high-profile case at the High Court in Britain.

Vendanta denies any wrongdoing.

Mr Lungu says he is consulting with his attorney general on ways of disengaging mining firms that have been exploiting Zambians.

The government wants to introduce a sales tax but Goodwell Mateyo, the Chamber of Mines president, has warned that some companies will close down if the sales tax is implemented.

“We will follow the due process of the law - those who can’t stay with us, we will say let them go," President Lungu said.

African leaders mark Kaunda's birthday

Kennedy Gondwe

BBC News, Lusaka

Former President Kaunda (holding a plate) with other Sam Nujoma (L),  Joaquim Chisano and Zambia current President Edgar Lungu (R)
Salim Henry
Former President Kaunda (holding a plate) with others, Sam Nujoma (L), Joaquim Chisano and Zambia's current President Edgar Lungu (R)

Zambia’s founding president and liberation hero Kenneth Kaunda celebrated his 95th birthday on Sunday with former African presidents travelling to Lusaka to join in the occasion.

Mr Kaunda, who ruled the southern African country for 27 years before losing power in 1991, was joined in the celebrations by former former leaders from the region: Bakili Muluzi (Malawi), Joaquim Chisano (Mozambique), Ali Hassan Mwinyi (Tanzania), Festus Mogae (Botswana), Sam Nujoma (Namibia) and Hifukepunye Pohamba (Namibia).

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu and the country’s former leader Rupiah Banda also attended the state banquet in the capital, Lusaka.

Mr Kaunda who sang his signature song Tiyende Pamodzi (Let's Move Together), also called for brotherly love among humanity.

He said:

Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind. Love your neighbour as you love yourself.”

Mr Kaunda, one of the few surviving members of the liberation struggle, is revered in southern Africa for the role he played in ensuring countries got independence from their colonisers.

Zambian farmer's hopes for slurry compensation

People with water
People who live near the mine can now sue the mining company in a UK court

A farmer in Zambia has told the BBC that he wants to join those villagers who on Wednesday won the right to sue mining giant Vedanta in a UK court over alleged pollution.

The case relates to allegations by villagers living near the huge Nchanga Copper mine, owned by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta.

Watson Sinkala, who has tried to pursue a case against the company in the Zambian courts, said he was offered about 40,000 kwatcha ($3,300; £2,500) compensation by Vedanta when 10 hectares (nearly 25 acres) of his farmland became waterlogged after the Nchanga copper mine poured slurry into a nearby stream.

He explained what had happened to the BBC's Focus on Africa radio programme.

When the miners started [putting] slurry in the stream, the slurry was too much so the river bed shifted about 10m from the normal river bed so water started back washing. Instead of water flowing to the main river, water was back washing, and the agricultural land was permanently flooded."

Mr Sinkala says he grew tomatoes, cabbage and maize on that land, supplying the supermarket chain Shoprite.

He turned down the compensation offer from the mining firm as he estimates his damages were higher - and 10 years on he is still fighting his case.

Now that Zambian community has won the right to seek justice and compensation in British courts, he hopes he can join the group in its legal action.

Vedanta and KCM say they will defend themselves against any claims.

Ten apply to manage Zambia football team

Kennedy Gondwe

BBC News, Lusaka

Zambian supporters cheer for their team during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying football match between Nigeria and Zambia
Football fans were disappointed that the national football team did not qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations

The Football Association of Zambia (Faz) has received 10 applications for the vacant job to manage the country's national football team, Chipolopolo.

The position fell vacant after the departure of Belgian coach Sven Vandenbroek following Zambia’s failure to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nationals finals, to be hosted by Egypt in June.

Faz secretary general Adrian Kashala told a media briefing in the capital, Lusaka, on Monday that all the applicants are foreigners.

He said the association will have a board meeting this weekend, when the matter will be discussed further.

Mr Kashala expressed optimism that the new coach will be announced soon.

He further announced the appointment of Lyson Zulu as the association’s technical director, a position that has been vacant for the last three years.

Mr Zulu held the position of football development manager at Faz before his latest appointment.

Fathers 'shouldn't get leave for out-of-wedlock children'

Kennedy Gondwe

BBC News, Lusaka

Man carrying child

A leading grouping of employers in Zambia has asked the government to restrict paternity leave to children born to women registered as spouses.

The suggestion from the Zambia Federation of Employers (ZFE) is aimed at limiting the number of times men take paternity leave.

Harrington Chibanda, the ZFE executive director, says there should be a restriction on how many times married men get paternal leave.

If passed, those who are not married would not get any leave.

Zambian labour laws are currently being reviewed.

He told the BBC:

Men being men, they can have children with any woman and just go to their employer to ask for paternity leave. But what we’re saying is that such paternity leave must only be granted to men who have registered their spouses with the employer.

With women, it’s different because once they’re pregnant you can see they are pregnant because they carry the pregnancy for nine months. But with men, there are no ways of cross-checking.”

He dismissed suggestions that the proposal was discriminatory:

The whole idea is to avoid a situation where men will just wake up and say: ‘I have a child and I want to go on leave’ because each time they’re out of work, work suffers.

Even those in polygamous marriage have to register their spouses. That’s what we are saying.”

Labour Minister Joyce Simukoko has said the government will look into the proposal.