Opinion

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

THE question is simple, did Mr Hakainde Hichilema declare interest or not when he sold the Hotel Intercontinental in Livingstone on behalf of the government? An emphatic answer is what is needed to settle the matter.
So far, the UPND president has not pronounced himself to set the record straight and the public is left to conjecture and come up with different interpretations.
Mr Hichilema’s previous attempts at setting the record straight through radio interviews, have been shambolic and empty public relations stunts. This is because he has become a master at spinning and putting out smokescreens for the public when confronted.
Not long ago, Mr Hichilema boasted that he should not be blamed what happened during the privatization exercise just because the government or the Finance minister, in particular, Ms Edith Nawakwi, was sleeping when the deal was being cut.
That is hardly the language or reasoning one expects from a person charged with carrying out a serious business transaction on behalf of Government.
Government or indeed Ms Nawakwi could be forgiven for being too relaxed because they believed that the person charged with representing it had the nation’s interests at heart.
To give her credit, Ms Nawakwi responded that she could have been sleeping because she was not expecting thieves as she trusted the team representing Government.
Consequently, Ms Nawakwi decided to spill the beans over the hotel deal and the person selling on behalf of government who assumed chairmanship of the hotel, a day after the sale.
Even a child at kindergarten could smell something fishy in the deal, that someone had really done his homework to make it a reality. It was not a mere coincidence he recommended Sun International, with the lowest bid at $5.6 million to be sold the hotel.
There were higher bids at more than $20 million which were disregard at Mr Hichilema’s advice.
This is why the public is demanding that the privatisation of the hotel should be probed on its own.
The sale of the hotel is deemed to have been conducted in a less than honest manner to the disadvantage of Government and the Zambian people.
And now more political leaders have backed calls for the privatisation of Intercontinental Hotel in Livingstone to be investigated separately because it was a clear act of corruption and criminality.
According to stakeholders, the matter of the hotel should not be combined with the proposed Commission of Inquiry to probe the entire privatisation of state-0wned firms.
The consortium of political parties and Christian Democratic Party (CDP) president, Danny Pule, has demanded that if individuals enriched themselves through the fraudulent sale of the hotel, they should be exposed.
Like many Zambians, Dr Pule wants the government to ensure that Zambians get to know what transpired during the privatisation and if there was criminality involved.
The Zambian DNA spokesperson Spuki Mulemwa has also called for the probe of International Hotel and insisted that what was sold belonged to Zambians and answers needed to be provided.
Clearly, the sale of the Intercontinental Hotel is at the core of this privatisation saga and it is imperative that this is treated as a separate matter.
A probe will rest the matter, especially if answers are provided as demanded by Zambians.

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