Lafarge accused of dirty tricks in Zambia

Lafarge accused of dirty tricks in Zambia
Published: 23 November 2004

France has asked the Zambian government to rescind its decision of deporting Chilanga Cement managing director Ian Coulter. And sources at Chilanga Cement have revealed that government’s reasons that Coulter was deported on November 5, 2004 because of his alleged involved in activities that endangered Zambia’s security were fake. But home affairs minister Lt Gen Ronnie Shikapwasha has maintained that he had evidence to prove that Coulter was a security risk to the country.

In a letter to home affairs minister Lt Gen Shikapwasha dated 5th November 2004, French Ambassador to Zambia Jean-Paul Monchau urged the Zambian government to rescind its decision because the decision was not beneficial to the country.  "The case of Ian Coulter, Managing Director of Chilanga Cement, has been brought to my attention," Ambassador Monchau stated. "As you are aware,  Lafarge, has a controlling interest in this company.

 "According to the information that I have, stated Jean-Paul Monchau, Mr Coulter, a Zimbabwean national, might have been the subject of an order of deportation and  revocation of work permit issued by your services. It seems that the difficulties facing Mr Coulter go back to 2001 when he entered Zambia to work as General Manager of Chilanga Cement. Apparently, in 2001 the matter was settled when Mr Coulter paid a fine after admitting responsibility.

However the reason for Coulter’s deportation may have more to do with Lafarge’s earlier purchase of Chilanga Cement which the Zambian government sources now claim was not in Zambia’s best interests.  Chilanga should have been up for sale by public tender but this did not happen because Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) in the UK were accorded the pre-emptive rights as minority shareholders, a procedure which was abused by CDC together with some people at the Zambia Privatisation Agency (ZPA). A source said Chilanga’s purchase price was manipulated in the ensuing closed door bidding and negotiation process. As a result, Zambia got a raw deal as Chilanga was sold at a ridiculously low price of US$5.4m at a time when the market value was in excess of US$40m.

The source also noted that the problem at Chilanga was not an accident but the realisation of a well orchestrated hegemonic French strategy engulfing Zambia. "The said problem at Chilanga is being perpetrated by several companies and individuals alike as the joint constellation of forces of evil. These forces include Lafarge itself as the team leader, Nonara Investments Limited whose proprietor Mr Ntasano is deported, Salex Corporation based in South Africa but locally represented by Cacitex Limited," the source said. "They have collectively sought to capture the Great Lakes regional market at the expense of Zambia and Zambians through some calculated manipulative and exclusionary tactics.

"Lafarge is actively and unfairly promoting Mbeya cement exports from its Tanzanian cement plant while suppressing Chilanga cement and using the Zambian registered firms as surrogates - Nonara and Cacitex Zambia Limited," the source said. "Had it not been for the vigilance and patriotism of the
port operator in Mpulungu, the results of the trade imbalances would have been more catastrophic. Zambia cannot afford the luxury of doing away with
its exports and let alone the decision to undergo production cut-backs at Chilanga in support of multinational corporations

“According to the recommendation by government informers, the government should now become mindful of the multinationals that have come through privatisation of former state companies. This is a national disaster in light of the above developments, some clean- up is over due”.
Original report The Post (Zambia).