By SYLVIA MWEETWA
and JAMES KUNDA –
One jerabo was killed and another injured in a confrontation with police as scores of the notorious illegal copper dealers daringly broke into Konkola Copper Mines’ (KCM) Nchanga Mine early yesterday morning.
A police officer was hurt in the skirmish which happened at the concentrator section of the mine where the intruders were said to have gone to look for mill-balls, concentrates and other resale materials.
Copperbelt Police Chief Charity Katanga and Copperbelt Minister Bowman Lusambo confirmed the incident in separate interviews, both vowing stern action against the group which has been menacing the mine’s employees and disrupting operations at one of Zambia’s largest copper mines for weeks now.
Ms Katanga said the incident happened around 06:30 hours yesterday at the KCM concentrator plant when a group of men forced their way into the plant, defying orders and warning shots from the police to leave the premises.
Police were forced to open fire when the mob began pelting them with stones and other missiles and began to advance towards them in an aggressive manner.
Sources told the Times the intruders numbered over 50.
Ms Katanga explained that in the process one person identified as Patani Silimba was shot dead while another Robby Subakanyama was injured and is admitted in hospital.
“I can confirm that one jerabo was shot dead while another is nursing gunshot wounds after the group stormed the plant in the early hours of yesterday,” he said.
The injured police officer was identified as Constable Mumbi Phiri who sustained superficial wound on the arm was treated and discharged from Nchanga South hospital.
This death was the second of a jerabo within a week.
Mr Lusambo said he was saddened at the levels of lawlessness exhibited by the jerabos and warned there would be consequences for those breaking the law with impunity.
“This level of lawlessness needs to end. I will be travelling to Chingola to try and reason with these people because as Government, we will not allow lawless people to disrupt operations at the mine and risk the lives of community, ”he said.
Last week, a suspected jerabo who was in a group of 20 others, among them boys younger than 10 years, was shot dead by police after the mob struck a female police officer with a stone as they forced their way into an open pit area of the same mine in Chingola. The mob destroyed two machines and set ablaze another.
Chingola Mayor Titus Tembo condemned the behaviour of the group, made up mostly of young unemployed persons who scavenge for the waste products from the mine to sell to scrap metal dealers and foreigners who operate mini-smelters in the town’s residential areas.
He said it was saddening to see that some very young people had been taken in by the mob and began to challenge law enforcement authorities, leading to needless deaths.
Meanwhile, the Small-Scale Miners Association of Zambia (SSMAZ) is saddened at the increasing illegal mining activities on the Copperbelt and is calling for ways to dialogue to explore ways to enable more local participation in the industry, reports James Kunda.
Association president Simon Njovu said reports that operations at major mining houses like KCM were being disrupted by the Jerabos on the Copperbelt were unfortunate and could not be supported by the SSMAZ.
“We know that the Government means well for small scale miners as demonstrated in the pronouncements by President Edgar Lungu.
“All we need is dialogue so that whatever policies are laid for this sector to grow can be implemented,” Mr Njovu said.
Mr Njovu said the small-scale mining industry required help in terms of funding and skills development for entrepreneurs to contribute meaningfully to economic development.
He said there were 14,862 small scale miners countrywide and cooperatives had been formed and all that was being waited for was Government support.
Mr Njovu urged Government to negotiate with Nkana Alloy and Smelting Company, a much improved stake for small-scale miners to have in the Nkana slag pit in Kitwe commonly known as ‘Black mountain’.
He said the Black mountain, before being handed to Nkana Alloy as rightful owners benefitted 3,200 people and the 10 per cent for small-scale miners was too little.