Copperbelt Minister Japhen Mwakalombe yesterday visited the famous US $449m Kafulafuta water supply project in Kafulafuta where he expressed happiness at the project and implored Zambians to learn from Chinese.
What is Mwakalombe happy about when there are only three Zambian contractors involved in actual works of the project?
Though Mwakalombe was happy but his position goes against State House that had given China National Complete Engineering Corporation a 14-day ultimatum in which to give more jobs on works of the project to Zambian contractors.
State House Special Assistant to the President for Projects, Implementation and Monitoring Andrew Chellah had expressed displeasure that the Kafulafuta water project was making speedy progress but with only three Zambian contractors involved in actual works.
It’s either Mwakalombe didn’t know about the ultimatum or he is acting against State House directive.
The Chinese used him well in bringing confusion among Government agents and departments.
Chellah had indicated that of $449 million of the project over US$170 million had been spent on the project.
But so far only $1.7m has trickled down to local contractors instead of the mandatory 20 per cent which could have translated into $34 million.
The policy of 20 per cent is aimed at ensuring that Zambian contractors benefit from every mega project executed in Zambia and also to ensure that there is knowledge transfer.
Wretchedly, the only three contractors involved in actual works on site such as civil works, mechanical and electrical are Budget Logistics, M&E and Pine Innovations against the 136 contractors on standby.
What has worried State House is that the major components of the projects have been and the project is speedily progressing without meeting the mandatory 20% to local contractors.
The tour and remarks of Mwakalombe after fact his finding mission shows disparities and lack of consistence on the part of ruling PF.
Mwakalombe could have consulted State House if he doesn’t like Chellah than being against a policy of 20 per cent which should trickle down to local contractors.
If Mwakalombe is happy, what is he happy about?
We value support from Chinese in the construction of mega infrastructure in our country but if government agents fail to support the President in his desire of ensuring that 20% trickles down, China will reap our economy naked.
State House need to worry when each government officer wants to issue statements not in tandem with what is policy.
Yes 20% is policy and Copperbelt contractors should not be mute at the expense of a few individuals who are happy.
The policy of sub-contracting local contractors must be non-negotiable because this is a matter of survival for the locals.
The knowledge transfer and 20% has been a thorn and song on every Zambian citizen ever since the PF government came into power.
This must be because Zambian contractors who are citizens with birth right to participate in their economic activities are getting below 2% from all the mega projects executed by foreign contractors.
We can only grow the country by local participation with foreign help.
So with such sweeping statements from high powered government officials it means the battle about the citizens participation in their economy is far from being won.
And during the launch of the works at the Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport in Ndola President Edgar Lungu was clear that he wanted Copperbelt contractors to benefit from the project and not importing from Lusaka.
This position has not changed unless it was done secretly.
Kafulafuta dam will hold 123 million m3. It will be capable of generating 300,000 m3 of water every day.
It is estimated that 600,000 jobs will be created during the whole construction period. 6000 of those jobs will be created during the construction phase and these are jobs State House wants to see come to fruition.