The privatization of the InterContinental Hotel and Rainbow Lodge in Livingstone did not meet the required benchmarks of fair, equitable, transparent, competitive, and cost-effective disposal of national assets and should be declared unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional, null and void, says the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).
During a media briefing this morning at Mika Lodges, YALI President Andrew Ntewewe raised a number of questions which he said generations will keep asking as to who the actual beneficiaries of the privatized State assets were and what benefit the people of Zambia got from the sale of assets which were built with Zambia’s own money.
The Intercontinental Hotel and Rainbow Lodge whose sale was negotiated by the United National Development Party leader Hakainde Hichilema at the price of US$6.5 million was sold to Sun International Zambia owned Mr. Hichilema and Senior Chief Mukuni, among others.
A few days ago, Mr. Hichilema while answering a question on QFM surrounding his involvement in the sale of national assets that were sold at a value below the normal value of the assets said he was “only 29 years old and the government went to sleep during the process.” But YALI President said it was sad that some promising young people like Hakainde Hichilema who were involved in the evaluation and negotiation for the sale of national assets took advantage of the sleeping government to benefit themselves.
“In the sale of these two properties, according to records from Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) was US$20 million from Victoria Falls Travel Bureau but we learned that our ZPA negotiating team for this transaction, led by Mr. Hichilema, accepted the lowest bid by Sun International, of $5.65m which was increased to $6.5m. While this was a striking drop from the $20m offered by the highest bidder, what was even more striking, even astonishing, was the fact the accepted bid of $6.5m was made by a Sun International whom we have come to learn Mr. Hakainde Hichilema himself is now one of the directors,” said Ntewewe.
Mr. Ntewewe said this is hard to believe and raises a number of questions in the minds of the public whether the negotiation for the bidder was Mr. Hichilema on behalf of Sun International and the seller was the same Mr. Hichilema on behalf of the Zambian Government.
“Was that a negotiation, where both buyer and seller were led by the same person, Mr. Hichilema? What do the courts do when a person accused of benefitting was the person appointed to guard that property? Can we be sure that Mr. Hichilema got the maximum benefit for Zambia in the negotiations when, as a matter of fact, he now has a beneficial interest in the property he negotiated the sale price to the company he is now director?” he questioned.
The organization has argued that the land where Royal Zambezi is situated, directly facing the Victoria Falls from the front and from the back, the former Rainbow Lodge, was perhaps worth $20 million dollars and the addition of the National Park, the value could easily have been $50 million in 1998 for the land and animals in the Park and transiting across the river.
Our negotiating team led by Mr. Hichilema accepted only $6.5 million. This may not be surprising when one is reminded the sum of $6.5 million was being offered by a company in whom Mr. Hichilema now has a beneficial interest as director and the offer was accepted by the negotiating Chairman, Mr. Hichilema on behalf of the seller. It is hard to imagine a more obvious conflict of interest.
The other questions raised by Mr. Ntewewe were whether a sale is considered to have taken place when both buyers, Sun International, had wilfully concealed the fact that the seller was in fact their director. Second, can a sale be considered to have taken place when the seller Mr. Hichilema had wilfully concealed the fact that he was representative of the buyer? In other words, can a sale take place when someone sells to oneself? How does the law view insider trading where a buyer has prior knowledge of the seller’s position? How would the court view Mr. Hichilema’s action as a fiduciary? Can a fiduciary benefit from that which has been entrusted into his/her hands? Was the ZPA negotiating team damagingly compromised by Mr. Hichilema’s position as a Director at the buyer’s company?