Anglo American's announcement that it was pulling out of Zambia's Konkola copper mines has to be counted as the biggest failure of privatisation in Africa thus far. The economic implications for Zambia are severely negative. Can Anglo be persuaded to think again? Anderson Mazoka, former director of Anglo in Zambia and now leader of the opposition in the newly formed government, in this conversation with Tom Nevin, thinks Anglo can and should.
Former director in Zambia for Anglo American and now leader-apparent of the opposition after being pipped at the post by Levy Mwanawasa in the January Presidential election, Anderson Mazoka, feels that Anglo American has both a moral and business obligation to stay in Zambia.
When African Business asked him if he thought Anglo was correct in pulling out, Mazoka said Anglo was faced with a level of historical commitment.
"If you understand Anglo correctly, you will see that they have made money out of Zambia. Anglo plc now has its headquarters in London. The seed capital that took Anglo out of Africa was the proceeds from Zambia Investments, from Minorco."
Mazoka contends that Zambia's contribution was an important one in making Anglo what it is today "to the extent that a solution can be found. There may be some discomfort - but a solution can be worked out to save the situation.
"I think Anglo has a certain moral obligation to look at Zambia much more seriously before they pull out," he contends. "I also believe that in the present world economy, money is quite cheap.
"There are many investors looking for a home for their funds, and I don't believe that Anglo would fail to find reasonable funds, or cheap enough funds to invest in that (Konkola Deep) business."
Anglo owns 50.9% of Zambia Copper Investments, the major shareholder in the Konkola copper mine with a 65% stake. Mazoka also maintains that Anglo has not altogether pulled out.
"They have said they will pull out if they cannot correct the financial position," he points out. The Zambian businessman and rapidly rising political star has to wear a number of hats, so "it would nor be fair if I did not put my different positions. The first is that as a businessman, I recognise that in a company like Anglo, the managers act on behalf of the shareholders. Their mandate is to make profits and that position demands that if they see any danger or threat to the assets of the investors, they must react in the most prudent manner.
"That is one hat. The other I wear as a Zambian citizen. The mining industry is one of the most important economic sectors of the country, and without it we would be facing serious problems. It employs the largest number of private...