Xmas ‘bonus’ brought great joy to miners
Published On December 23, 2017 » 2538 Views» By Davies M.M Chanda » Features
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It is recorded in the Bible that the first Christmas, which marked the birth of Jesus was one of great joy because Christ’s mission was to bring peace, joy and life everlasting.
But for the poor slaving miner on the Copperbelt, Christmas also provided a wonderful opportunity not only to thank God but it to improve his quality of life using the Christmas bonus the employer paid workers at the end of the year.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word bonus as a ‘sum of money added to a person’s wages for good performance; an unexpected and extra benefit’.
Those of us who were there in the far-off days of the late 1950s, early 60s and 1970s can testify that yes, indeed, even the ‘Bad times were good’ because it was not all gloom as no year went by without the hard-working miner receiving their Christmas bonus, the envy of other workers in various sectors of the economy.
In fact, the rural-urban drift was partly triggered by the desire by most able-bodied young men from the villages to secure employment on the copper mines so they could have access to the life-changing Christmas bonanza.
Armed with this ‘windfall’, the African miner was able to confidently walk into any store or market to buy some expensive clothing and nutritious foodstuffs for his family that he could not usually afford with his meager monthly wage.
Some, in their bid to be among the envied ‘apamwamba’ (the well heeled in society), spent the money on second-hand motor vehicles. Regrettably such vehicles did not last as they broke down soon after they were bought and remained parked in yards as chicken runs or kennels for their pets.
For the shopkeeper in both the First and Second Class shopping areas who sold school uniforms, shoes, belts, books, pencils, fountain pens, crayons and ink, Christmas was a time of unprecedented prosperity – it was a time to recoup the cash that had remained tied up in unsold stock for most of the year.
For the risk-taking transporter like Luka Mumba (LM) and Kalyafye & Sons who in the 1950s plied the Fort Roseberry (now Mansa)-Samfya route of the Luapula Province, for example, Christmas was a time when business experienced a quantum leap forward.
Generally speaking, the advent of Christmas saw children from well-to-do families, who went to schools in other towns and countries such as Southern Rhodesia, South Africa, Bechuanaland (Botswana), Basotholand (Lesotho), Belgian Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo),  South West Africa (Namibia) and Nyasaland (Malawi) returned home for Christmas and New Year holidays.
It would be no exaggeration to state that every business, including Rhodesia Railways (part of which became Zambia Railways upon the break-up of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1963), made a killing as railways stations and bus stops became a hive of activity every festive season.
Churches, too, were not to be left out. Smartly dressed in their newly acquired attires, miners and their family members flocked to nearby churches to pray and receive anew the good news of the birth of the Prince of Peace, as recorded in the Bible in Luke 2: 1-38, which says in part:
‘In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken to of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their stocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord (Shekinah) shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel of the Lord said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, I bring you good that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests’.
When the angel had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about’. So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about the child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. The shepherds (later) returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law (Christ came to fulfill the law and not to destroy it) of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord; and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ’pair of doves or two young pigeons’.
At the end of the Christmas and New Year festivities, mine workers returned to their underground jobs – and reciprocated the employers’ gesture’ by putting in an extra effort resulting in increased mineral production, and a corresponding rise in revenue for the government and the investor.
Government, which depended heavily on copper industry profits, taxed at 73 percent, was able to create more jobs. Between 1964 and 1970, over 100,000 new jobs were created across the sectors. The construction industry record a boost of 67,000 people by the mid-70s compared to 29,000 in 1964, a rise of 38,000.  In the manufacturing industry, labour rose by 15,000, almost twice the 1964 figures. Trade and commerce similarly recorded new levels of about 14,000, or almost twice the 1964 figures.
I would like to believe that all this was possible because incentives like copper bonus (though they were a pittance when compared to hefty golden ‘hand-shakes’ paid to the muzungu: the European or the dreaded Bass), coupled with employers’ willingness to reward the worker with something extra combined in ensuring industrial stability, hence the relatively low manpower turnover on the mines.
In conclusion I would like to say that if the country is to return to those good old days of the Christmas bonus, much is -and will definitely be – required of the new foreign investor; he has to be manifestly seen to be fair, honest and pay taxes due to the Government.
True some degree of cheating was there in the past, of course. But all in all, mine owners at the time – Anglo American Corporation (AAC) and Roan Selection Trust (RST) – were not coerced but faithfully paid their taxes to the all-white Federal Government administration based in Salisbury (now Harare) which developed to rival only Johannesburg in the region.
When told that Zambians were among the overtaxed in the world, late president Frederick Chiluba did not mince his words when replying to concerns raised by Zambians working in Botswana at a reception held in his honour at the Grand Palm Hotel in Gaborone in 2001.
Chiluba, a former trade unionist, simply said, ‘You can’t run away from paying Caesar what belongs to Caesar’ because without tax revenues it would be impossible for any government to govern the country.
So if new mine investors emulated the colonial investor, miners and other workers, including civil servants, will start to experience a new life and examination leaks that have become the order of the day will eventually become a thing of the past.
And the churches too will once gain be overflowing with cheerful worshipers, singing ‘Noel, Noel’.
Comments:alfredmulenga777@gmail.com (+26096327527).

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