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HH is probably guilty as charged on the sale of Intercontinental Hotel Livingstone

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HH was not a Shareholder in Sun International at the time of Privatization

By Sean Tembo – PeP President

It was with great interest that l read the demand letter which was purportedly written by the lawyers for the UPND President Mr Hakainde Hichilema and directed to the FDD President and former Finance Minister Honorable Edith Nawakwi, regarding the allegations of misconduct in the privatization process leveled against Mr Hichilema. As severally indicated in the past, our interest has been to get to the bottom of this issue and that if anyone is found culpable, then they need to atone for their misconduct. It was for this reason that we initially requested that Mr Hichilema provides a detailed rebuttal of the allegations that had been leveled against him and not just respond through Facebook and Twitter memes. Although many of his supporters saw our request for a detailed rebuttal as an attack by ourselves against Mr Hichilema, to the contrary it has always been in Mr Hichilema’s best interests to explain himself in detail and not just issue counter-accusations or indeed seek to side-step the issue altogether.

I must say that l am happy that Mr Hichilema has, through his lawyers, substantively responded to the three key allegations leveled against him by Honorable Edith Nawakwi regarding the privatization process. Allow me to now give my opinion about each of the three allegations as well as the respective rebuttals by Mr Hichilema.

The first allegation was that Mr Hichilema as liquidator of Lima Bank, decided to sale himself one of the Lima Bank assets, being the house along Serval Road in Kabulonga. Such conduct, if true would obviously amount to a conflict of interest. Mr Hichilema’s response is that he bought the Kabulonga house in 1995 and the seller was not Lima Bank, and he goes on to state that Lima Bank was only placed under liquidation in 1997. My view is that that is a fair and reasonable explanation from Mr Hichilema. We shall now await Honorable Edith Nawakwi’s reply to Mr Hichilema’s explanation so that we can subsequently form a conclusion on this particular matter.

The second particular allegation was that Mr Hichilema abused his position as an advisor to Government regarding the privatization of Roan Antelope Mining Corporation of Zambia or RAMCOZ in short. Mr Hichilema’s explanation is that he was never involved in the privatization process of RAMCOZ. He further indicates that when RAMCOZ was subsequently placed under receivership, the Receiver Manager was a Mr Christopher Mulenga and not himself. Our view is that, again, this is a fair and reasonable explanation that has been provided on the matter by Mr Hichilema. We now await the reply on this explanation by Honorable Edith Nawakwi. After we get that reply, we can then form our opinion on the culpability or otherwise of Mr Hichilema regarding this particular allegation.

The third allegation was that Mr Hichilema as Negotiating Chairman of Intercontinental Hotel in Livingstone abused his position in two ways. Firstly he sold the hotel to Sun International who had put up a much lower bid of $6.5 million, as opposed to selling to higher bidders which included a bid for $26 million, $20 million and $10 million. Sun International was a predominately South African Outfit, although they had registered a subsidiary in Zambia called Sun International Zambia, which is said to have been registered at PACRA in November 1997 and were Mr Hichilema and Senior Chief Mukuni were alleged to be Directors. As Negotiating Chairman, Mr Hichilema is said to have sold the intercontinental hotel to Sun International Zambia around February 1998, almost 3 months after the company was incorporated.

Honorable Edith Nawakwi’s allegation in this matter is that Mr Hichilema effectively sold the hotel to himself, which explains why he decided to pick the lower bid of $6.5 million and not higher bids. In his explanation through his lawyers, Mr Hichilema does not deny that he was the Negotiating Chairman in the sale of Intercontinental Hotel Livingstone. He also does not categorically deny that he was a Director of Sun International Zambia at the time that he sold it Intercontinental Hotel. He also does not deny that he decided to sale the hotel at a lower bid price of $6.5 million when higher bids including $26 million were available. Instead, Mr Hichilema’s main defense regarding this particular allegation is that it was done within the law. My take is that unlike the two allegations above, Mr Hichilema has dismally failed to dispel this particular allegation. Even without any reply to his explanation by Honorable Edith Nawakwi, solely based on the allegations themselves and his reply, he is probably guilty as charged.

Given the fact that this is a developing matter, and new evidence will continue to unveil to the public domain, both to reassert the allegations and to rebut the allegations, we shall continue to play our role of reviewing such additional information and evidence and give our opinion on where the balance of probabilities is leaning towards. It must be noted that this is not a private matter between Mr Hakainde Hichilema and Honorable Edith Nawakwi. To the contrary, it is a public matter because it involves public assets that were sold during the privatization process.

Therefore, we have every right to talk about it and give our opinion on the unveiling developments. We have received plenty of insults from the supporters of Mr Hichilema who feel that we have no right to comment on this matter. However, we wish to assure these supporters that we are not a kind that get intimidated or that jumps to an individual’s defense simply because the allegations might taint an individuals political standing, no. We have only one interest at heart, and that is the national interest. If Mr Hichilema is culpable, then he must be held to account, if he is not, then he must be cleared accordingly. So far, if l was a court, l would acquit him on the first and second count but would convict him on the third count regarding the sell of Intercontinental Hotel in Livingstone.