By Mike Makasa
President Edgar Lungu's meeting with representatives of small scale miners on the Copperbelt commonly known as Jerabos to discuss the issues surrounding the Kitwe's dump site popularly known as the Black Mountain has shocked the Emerald Sector group.
President of the Emerald and Semi Precious Stones Miners Victor Kalesha has accused the Head of State of ignoring their efforts to set up an appointment with him to discuss issues affecting the sector.
Kalesha, a Patriotic Front cadre, has been seeking audience with the President but his efforts have hit a snag after the head of state gave audience to Jerabos.
"As the Emerald Association of Zambia-ESMAZ, we would like to express our disappoint for the continuous neglect of the development of the emerald sector which has proved to be a giant in terms of revenue creation while our colleagues in the base metal small scale mining have direct access to the head of state and express their concerns directly to the head of state so as to be helped," he said.
"We have on several occasions requested for audience with the head of state but we have been blocked and we don't know by whom and it is painful to see our colleagues in the base metals striking a deal with the head of state in regard to the Black Mountain."
Kalesha further added that it is common knowledge that the emerald sector has been neglected for a very long time because leaders put much attention to investors whose interest is to externalise profits.
He said the Association has been calling for the empowerment of a Zambian small scale gemstone miner so that the proceeds from the auctions can be internalised to develop the country.
"It's like in Zambia we are comfortable in promoting the interest of foreigners other than that of its own people. We want to request that we are allowed to interact with our listening President to suggest modalities of developing the emerald sleeping giant.
"We have abundant emerald deposits in Zambia which can contribute not less than $200 million to the national treasury annually but yet we just contribute 20% to the international market," said Kalesha.
Jerabos have emerged as a strong political force on the Copperbelt where they are an effective grassroot operative for political parties.