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Local contractors committing suicide

By KALOBWE BWALYA
SOME local contractors have committed suicide because of pressure from banks and other lending institutions after the UPND government decided to criminalise them and refused to pay what was contractually owed, the Zambia Association of Citizens Contractors (ZCCO) has revealed.
And the local contractors are angry that the UPND government has continued demonising them by branding them criminals and thieves while refusing to pay even in instances where the contractors had met all the contractual obligations.
Mr Mutale Mpepo, the ZACCO president says it is saddening that the government had decided to criminalise the country’s local contractors most of whom had, over the years served successive administrations with due diligence.
At a media breifing he said some local contractors had committed suicide due to pressure from Banks and other lending institutions because government had refused to pay them which had led to the nonpayment of their wages and salaries.
Mr Mpepo has appealed to the government not to bankrupt the local business and save the sector which he said was now in an “intensive care.”
“Instead of government negotiating with contractors, we have a situation where contractors are being insulted every day. Our local contractors are being branded criminals, thieves and incompetent. We have lost some of our local contractors who have taken their own lives bevcause of the pressure from banks and other lending institutions and government is happy about it. We have never been criminals, never have we ever been thieves and it is unfortunate that government has continued demonising us, branding us as criminals, thieves not worthy of working with the government,” Mr Mpepo said.
Mr Mpepo said government should desist criminalizing local contractors most of whom had been rendered restitutes as a result of government decision not pay for the services they had contractually provided.
At a media brefing yesterday, Mr Mpepo said because of the bad publicity, the local contractors were being denied the opportunity to secure finances from the banks and other lending institutions the lending institutions were considering local contractors risky.
Mr Mpepo said the mistrust that was existing from government was in fact collapsing the sector and that it was against government’s own policy of employment creation and promotion of small-scale enterprises.
He has advised government to quickly meet the representatives of contractors and suppliers with view to discuss and working out mechanism which would lead to the dismantling of the outstanding payments owed to local suppliers.
And Mr Mpepo said the Zambian contractors have always complied with the international standards while admitting that there were some contractors who did not carry their work effectively and professionally.
He said last year government terminated 197 feeder road contracts out of the 240 countywide valued at over K10 billion.
“Government should therefore expedite the process of dismantling debt owed to local contractors and allow the sector back on track failure to which, the association foresees a situation where most of the contractors will close their business,” Mr Mpepo said.

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