Zambia: Kafumukache Refuses to Sign Zambia Sugar Pension Scheme
By Larry Moonze, the Post (Lusaka)

December 20, 2003

LUSAKA:Labour minister Lt Col. Patrick Kafumukache has refused to sign the Zambia Sugar Company's new pension scheme until management and the union agree on the outstanding pension employees contributed before privatisation.

During the two platinum stars National Occupation Safety Association (NOSA) installation ceremony at Nakambala Sugar Estimates in Mazabuka on Thursday, Lt Col. Kafumukache said ZSC owned by Illovo had stated that they could not trace pension previously contributed by employees before the company was sold.

"I have told management to discuss the matter before it comes for approval. Until the union and management agree, the ministry will not be bulldozed into the new pension scheme," he said.

Lt Col. Kafumukache said the Ministry of Labour would hold a tripartite labour meeting on December 23, 2003 to review the minimum wages.

He said controversial issues in the Labour Act would be reviewed and presented before Parliament in the next session.

Lt Col. Kafumukache said issues of social security, pension and insurance would also be discussed at the tripartite meeting.

"There is no social security in Zambia," he said. "Now, we are sentencing retirees to death because they have very little income to take home after they stop working."

Lt Col. Kafumukache further complained about the Investment laws in which foreign investors were allowed to recruit foreign personnel as directors in privatised companies.

He however said since the economy was showing indicators of picking up, there should be heightened social dialogue to allow industrial stability.

Lt Col. Kafumukache said the biggest problem with Zambia was poverty.

He said there was no alternative to alleviating poverty apart from job creation.

Lt Col. Kafumukache said if Zambians became imaginative, the nation could create employment ventures to address the over 54 per cent unemployment level.

He said Zambia had trees, grass, rivers and land which Zambians just looked at while they wallowed in poverty.

"Even the National Aids Council can create employment. ZamSIF can create employment instead of just rehabilitating schools," he said.

He said Zambia should take a leaf from countries like Tunisia that had no raw materials but had reduced unemployment rates to as low as three per cent.

Lt Col. Kafumukache said if Zambia put employment creation and education first of priority, nothing would be impossible to solve.

He said when companies make profits, they should utilize such money to reduce hardships of the underprivileged persons.

Lt Col. Kafumukache said the ZSC's NOSA two star grading followed the company's strides in recognising hazardous conditions in the working environment and identification of appropriate remedial actions.

He said the majority of the people in Zambia had continued facing safety and health risks at places of work and industries.

Lt Col. Kafumukache said most risks were in the mining, manufacturing, construction, electricity, forestry and agriculture industries where accidents were more rampant due to the diversity of technology employed in those sectors.

"My ministry is saddened that workers in Zambia have continued working in very unsafe and mostly unhygienic conditions in the informal economy where there is no provision by legislation to cover this sector," he said.

Lt Col. Kafumukache said although the magnitude of poor occupational health and safety in the economy was not known, it was most certain that workers were exposed to hazardous working environment and this included child workers who were most vulnerable.

He said every year many workers died as a result of diseases they contracted during their working lives.

"Unlike safety hazards, the effects of health hazards are often slow, cumulative, irreversible and complicated by non-occupational factors," he said.

ZSC managing director John Moult said the company aimed at developing a culture and environment where all employees were keen to work and live safely.

"We attach great importance to this, as it provides protection for our greatest assets, our employees, the community and the environment," he said.

Moult said ZSC recognised that accidents and occupational sickness impacted negatively on the performance of any company.

He said the new millennium safety health environment issues were no longer just an individual corporate concern but a global one with the aim of ensuring that operations were conducted in environmentally friendly conditions.

Moult said the just closed production season saw ZSC produce 230,000 ton of sugar.

He said the company achieved their budgeted production target.

Moult said production was however slightly lowered compared to 2002 due to climatic conditions which made it impossible for the company to crush all the cane.

He said the domestic sugar market had experienced low growth while the regional market was influenced by the political situation in the DRC and Zimbabwe.

Moult said the sugar sector was highly competitive in the region because most countries had expanded their production.

He said ZSC had now expanded 400 hectares of cane field with pre-feasibility studies done on expanding 1,000 hectares via medium scale farmers.

And chief Mwanachingwala called for co-existence between management and employees.

He said there must be mutual respect starting from the least employee to the managing director.

"Don't fear," he said. "If something is wrong don't write anonymous letters. Tell the authority."

Chief Mwanachingwala said if an employee who complained about wrongs in the company was pushed around, they would be rescued.

"We must learn to co-exist whether black, white or yellow because we are one," said chief Mwanachingwala.

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