HIV patients in Ndola, impoverished despite the local copper mines.
Mining investors in Zambia were putting pressure on the Government in Lusaka to reduce the amount of tax they had to pay. For decades, they had used economic pressure to influence the Government. They paid taxation at 31%, compared to other countries where they had to pay 51%.
Surging world prices for copper should be bringing in much needed revenue to Zambia thanks to its large deposits, but CaritasZambia studies showed that as a result the people of Zambia were not benefiting as much as they should be from the mining.
Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world, with most people living on less than US$2 a day and an average life expectancy of 40 years.
Caritas supported the Government’s plans to increase the taxation to 47%, and with the support of civil society the Government stood firm.
“We used our grassroots knowledge to show that people were not benefiting from the mines,” said Edmund Kangamungazi, Economic Justice programme officer of CaritasZambia.
Caritas focuses on trying to get the Government to adopt pro-poor policies by providing detailed research and carrying out advocacy work in parliament and through the press. It monitors how effective Government policies are because it has networks in all the local communities where the policies are supposed to be benefiting the local people. If they are not working, CaritasZambia speaks up.
“In 2008, the Government suggested a 600,000 kwacha tax rebate to help meet rising living costs,” said Mr Kangamungazi. “But our evidence collected at the grassroots level showed that this would not be enough to meet those costs. The Government took our figures and increased the tax rebate to one million kwacha. Enough to feed a family.”
Caritas Zambia keeps a close eye on the Government’s budget and makes sure that it has pro-poor policies and that it delivers on those policies when it says it will. Civil society keeping the Government in check is a crucial part to ensuring good governance and ending corruption.
But Kangamungazi says that the international campaign has been vital too. The Government’s hands can be tied by economic policies it has to adopt in return for loans from financial institutions.
Campaigners can put pressure on those donors to make sure economic policies are not harmful to the poor in Zambia and elsewhere.