After problems at the Chinese-owned Collum Coal Mine in Sinazongwe in Zambia’s Southern Province in which one of the Chinese supervisors died at the hands of the striking workers who were demanding a minimum wage which had recently been announced by government, internet-based Crossfire BlogTalk Radio invited the area chief, Sinazongwe, to discuss the issue.
In the course of the show, the chief was asked if he sat on the board of directors of the mine, the question to which he, unfortunately, said no. I realised then the reason why there were problems at the mine and by extension, why there were, if not problems, at least lack of development in most of the rural areas with huge investment infrastructure.
I also realised the reason why the rural parts of the Copperbelt such as Mwelushi, Mukutuma and such places from which some of the world’s best emeralds are extracted are poor and are only left with gaping holes of the pits from which the precious stones are dug out like ugly scars of violent injuries. There are other areas where only a few people have benefitted while the majority have remained impoverished.
After Chief Sinazongwe’s interview on the show, my mind raced to the model that Royal Bafokeng Kingdom of north-western South Africa has employed to harness the platinum resources that are abundant in the area. The king holds the resources in trust on behalf of the Bafokeng people and the developments that come out of the profits are there for all to see. In fact, Rustenburg, one of the towns is home to one of the stadia that hosted the word cup 2010.
According to the Royal Bafokeng Holdings (Pty) Limited website, RBH is responsible for the management and development of the commercial assets of the Royal Bafokeng Nation (RBN), with the overall business objective of maximising returns to enable the RBN to deliver sustainable benefits to the community.
Chief Sinazongwe himself lamented that chiefs, or at least he himself, was not paid any royalties by Collum Coal Mine and other companies operating in his area. Talking about empowerment, this is where the Zambian government needs to work out good policies that will not only benefit citizens through partnering with foreign investors, but enabling chiefs and there representatives to sit on boards of these companies and contributing money to trusts that would spearhead development in those areas.
In 2010, Lumwana Mining Company (LMC) in the North-Western Province projected to spend up to K1.2 billion on community projects that included building classrooms and adding maternity wards to health centres that had not had adequate facilities for decades.
“This year we are looking at a total of 19 projects in local communities aimed at uplifting the lives of the people here,” Sustainability Manager Brenda Liswaniso was quoted as saying in the company’s publication, Lumwana News.
Not to put LMC’s corporate social responsibility into question, the issue as stated from the outset, is the inclusion of traditional leaders on boards of directors if only they can play the role of conveyor belt in terms of sharing profits from the companies operating in their chiefdoms to development projects for the benefit of all subjects and even job and entrepreneurial creation.
Similarly, all investors should not only incorporate CSR like LMC but they sould go a step further and incorporate the Royal Bafokeng model which the Zambian government should take time to study and implement it especially in areas where new investment is taking place. It is a well-known fact that Zambia has a lot of natural resources in most parts of the country from which all citizens ought to benefit not just through minimum-wage paying jobs but through infrastructure and entrepreneurial development.