Understanding the Fertilizer Wars!
By Davis Mataka
‘When a carcass begins to fester, the big green flies start to gather over the kill in their thousands.
Not even the violent swing of a fly swatter can scuttle the collective resolve they have to feed off; as droves continue to congregate.
To conceal the rot is an attempt in futility because the petrifying pungent smell gives away the crime scene.
Soon, even those people minding their own business begin to take notice. You know you are the culprit and you start to panic.’
This author attempts to unravel a well contrived plot to blemish business players and a new government whose resolve to clean up a rotten system is unfettered.
But can the powerful cartels relinquish their honey pot without a big fight?
The multi-million dollar answer to the multi-million dollar question lays in an audit of paper trails recently uncovered, leading to illegal lofty fertilizer deals.
The lid on the can of worms has been blown open giving insight to the rot whose contents overwhelm even the strongest with powerful waves of nausea.
Thanks to the new guard at the helm of political leadership in Zambia last August. All would have been buried.
🔥Whooping multi-million dollar fertilizer deals; signed sealed but undelivered to the poverty stricken suffering Zambians.
🔥Breaking protocols of laid down government procurement procedures in purchasing and supply.
🔥Upfront payments of millions of dollars of tax payers’ funds committed to private entities with no guarantees.
🔥Failure to supply a single gram of fertilizer on fully paid 100 million dollar contracts with funds remitted in foreign banks
The list of crimes committed in this daylight robbery of public resources grows. The stark reality of how big the scam is too ghastly to phantom.
All that but they still yearn to quench their insatiable appetites to scam, extort and continue stealing from the Zambian public, these cartels still have the audacity to dare government.
The biblical word which resonates even today states that evil mooted in the dark never remains hidden because when daybreak comes, all is laid bare.
The history of government support for its people to attain food security spans the pre- Independence era.
Many food security programmes were planned out of the realisation that poverty could be effectively reduced if only the peasants’ spewn countrywide could get agric inputs support.
High Productivity was however hampered by poor yields and fertilizer was singled out as one of the drivers that could perhaps quadruple their harvests.
The set up and ultimate demise of the state run Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia (NCZ) , a fertilizer and chemical producing and marketing firm set the Zambian authorities looked to the private sector to satisfy this growing demand.
It is this which over time has metamorphasized into the huge programme it is today. A multi-million dollar industry.
And at the centre of the hullabaloo and bashing is a little known, seemingly reclusive but astute Lusaka business executive, Dr. Maurice Jangulo, whose name is linked to Alpha Commodities.
Dr. Jangulo has always plyed his trade away from the lime light and the pulsating dizzy glitzy heights of Lusaka’s who is who.
A business maverick of sorts, Dr. Jangulo hails from a family of business executives who have etched their entrepreneurial prowess in a somewhat mundane but effective manner, he has always carefully plotted his steps and rarely stepping on the toes of his competitors.
Dr. Jangulo has a rich corporate background having risen through the corporate ladder to the position of Omnia Small Scale Limited Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
He pioneered innovative supply and marketing programmes in Zambia.
His prowess in the sector paid off in 2003 as he co -founded Niyombo Investments
He has also sat on the boards of Omnia Zambia and Omnia South Africa curving himself an impressive name in the choppy world of corporate governance.
Dr. Jangulo’s claim to fame comes in early 2000 when he is cast into the deep end of Niyombo, one of the most successful private fertilizer distribution companies as co-owner and chief executive officer.
With a large market share of the nationwide distribution cake and a witty executive at the helm of the firm, Niyombo grows in leaps and bounds to quickly assert itself in pole- position in the high echelons of the fertilizer business.
Fast forward⏩⏩⏩⏩⏩⏩2010, a new PF government is ushered into office. A new political dispensation is at play, the dynamics are different. Business power networks expectedly shift to comply with the new norms.
For reasons not too clear, Dr. Jangulo finds himself at the receiving end of a political witch- hunt of sorts.
He is forced to relinquish his position in the firm as chief executive and Director on the board. Subsequently, shares in Niyombo is liquidated, it transforms into a new company called Nyimba.
Dr. Jangulo is left in the cold. For him, it is back to the drawing board, as he sets out to remake his business world. But this time around on a far less elaborate platform than before.
Alpha Commodities is born, less competitive, smaller, and yet still as ferocious. And anyway he has 25 years of experience, an impressive flawless run in the sector, never relenting and working hard to get his fair share of the piece of the business pie. However, the big boys of the fertilizer matrix have now changed. The new Niyombo (Nyimba) continues without Dr. Jangulo as many others reign supreme.
Nerias, ETG, Rockliffe Trading FZC and many others now dominate the fertilizer market with a combined market share of 96 per cent. They continue getting the big time contracts.
A paltry six per cent is left for the only two indigenous firms in the sector, Alfa Commodities and Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia (NCZ).
For five years, the status remains the same. No competitive tenders are conducted as contracts for fertilizer distribution are single sourced, handed down by preference of the powers that be.
It is only in the last two years of their stay in power that government pretends to vary the tenders by allowing the miserable six per cent market share to Alpha Commodities and NCZ.
In the last two year fertilizer contracts of the last two years of the PF government in power, Alpha Commodities and NCZ were offered a miserable 20,000 metric tonnes each to supply, while the lions share went to Nerias with 270,000 metric tonnes, Nyimba 206,000 metric tonnes, ETG 110,000 tonnes and Rocklife Trading FZC, 30,000 metric tonnes respectively.
As long as the status quo remained and political power remained with the ruling oligarch, all was well.
With the stakes this high, you did not dare venture without the stamp of approval of those that ruled.
The unimpregnable cartel of the “big boys” still reigns supreme. The champagne continues to flow.
As this debacle deepens, Alpha Commodities has to double clutch to get a living chance to keep its head afloat in the ever stifling neck throttling business environment. It strives to make good on every little contract it wins, always delivering before due date. In some cases delivering on its contracts before any payment is made.
The New Dawn brings fresh air and glad tidings for many, while for others; it is the beginning of a recurring nightmare and reason to gnash their teeth.
A fresh and critical review of these fertilizer contracts opens a ‘Pandoras Box’, replete with gut wrenching misdeeds in the administration of the sector. It is dirty!
Now that their cover is blown, the PF has been dethroned by the UPND, the cartels struggle to keep control or else they are bust. But it is too late.
The impeccable records of a few others in the sector soon pay off and Alpha Commodities, yet again finds itself on the good side of the law.
When a review of performance is conducted by government in 2021, Alpha Commodities comes out tops, beating some old time competitors who failed the test for a plethora of reasons. Some bordering on criminality.
In a fair and competitive race, there is not a single reason not to gift Alpha Commodities with new contracts. Overnight, they are the new kids on the block. The most preferred supplier. And why ever not?
Then the mudslinging starts. Alpha Commodities becomes victim of a well-orchestrated, well-oiled evil scheme to scandalize every move it makes.
Invective is thrown at the firm. outright lies peddled about some ‘blurry’ signing of contracts with government. Name it.
The misinformation even becomes deeply personal with attacks extended to those associated with executives of the firm.
Unintelligent conspiracy theories of connivance with the President Hichilema led government are bank rolled to stir the public discontent.
The whole saga smacks of mobster kind of brutal protectionist tactics. The kind that they can do to guard their threatened business turf.
But with all the evidence of an abused system being exposed every day, some of it already in public domain, it will be extremely difficult to camouflage the rot.
The resolve by this New Dawn government to bring out all the iniquities of the past ten years creates difficult working space for those that wrongfully indulged.
Those with dirty fingers are fretting because they have reason to. They are jittery that the long arm of the law is about to get them. It is impossible to ignore or back away from the stench of the rot that went on unabated for too long.
Another failed project is one to blemish those whose business enterprises are clean. It is not only devious, but an attempt to continue insulting the collective intelligence of the Zambian people.
It is payback time.