After months of denials and sidestepping on accusations of his conduct during the 1990s privatisation process, newly released documentation shows that presidential contender Hakainde Hichilema illegally benefited from his position by acquiring shares in Sun International Ltd. months before the company was awarded the tender, and failed to declare interest in a number of companies he owns along with key officials involved in the privatisation process.
In the matrix which includes official copies of documentation from the Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA) as well as Zambia Privatisation Agency (ZPA), the evidence reveals that Mr. Hichilema in his role as Negotiating Chairman for the sale of the Intercontinental Hotel Livingstone and the Rainbow Lodge selected the lowest bid by Sun International Ltd. in exchange for acquiring a massive amount of shares in the company through his proxy, Chief Mukuni.
The ZPA document shows that Hichilema suspiciously chose to reject competing bids of $20 million (Victoria Falls Travel Bureau), $10 million (Stocks and Stocks Ltd.), and $9.4 million (Marassa Holdings Ltd.), instead choosing the lowest bid of $5.65 million by Sun International of South Africa (the final sale price for the two hotels and park land eventually rose to $6.5 million).
Why would Hichilema choose to sell these valuable properties belonging to Zambian taxpayers for just $5 million instead of $20 million? It turns out that the UPND presidential candidate worked out a deal to acquire a massive stake in the company in exchange for corruptly awarding them the lowest bid, and even incorporated Sun International (Zambia) Ltd. four months before the sale took place.
According to the official documents contained in this matrix released publicly for the first time, the date of PACRA registration is dated 18 November 1997. Listed among the company directors is not only Hakainde S. Hichilema, but also Chief Mukuni (who recently endorsed HH for president). But as shown in the documentation, the sale of asset to Sun International Ltd. did not take place until 4 March 1998 – a full four months after the UPND leader had already registered the company that he would eventually award the tender to, despite three other much higher offers.
In normal circumstances, this transaction would have been immediately stopped over this conflict of interest and Hichilema would be subject to a corruption investigation. But in this case, both the Commerce Ministry and the head of the privatisation agency were pulled into the matrix with Hichilema. In February 1997, Dipak Patel, who now serves as HH’s campaign manager, was made Deputy Minister of Commerce, Trade, and Industry, and was very closely involved with the privatisation of the two lodges. At the time of the transaction, Mr. Valentine Chitalu served as Chief Executive Officer of ZPA, who became a close business partner of Mr. Hichilema.
When Dipak Patel served as Deputy Commerce Minister, this transaction would not have been possible without his direct knowledge and involvement. Interestingly, shortly after the privatisation of the hotel was completed, Mr. Patel tabled a memo to Cabinet, proposing the suspension of the 5% Service Charge for Hotels and Lodges in and around Livingstone town. Cabinet approved the suspension of this service charge in 1998, which was meant to benefit employees, and Sun International Ltd. was able to maximise profits at the expense of the workers – all arranged by the very people who conspired to sell the asset to a company in which they had already held shares.
Later other hotels and Lodge owners outside Livingstone also stopped giving workers the service charge. To date, workers in the hotel and tourism industry are among the lowest paid because of the greediness of HH and Chief Mukuni.
Hichilema also has financial connections to the privatisation boss Valentine Chitulu – and he failed to disclose this information when he registered his nomination papers as a presidential candidate before Acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda.
According to PACRA documents included in the matrix, HH holds shares in African Life Insurance Zambia through a company he owns together with Mr. Chitalu called Tiyende Consortium. Another shareholder in Tiyende Consortium is Munakupya Hantuba, who also happens to be Chief Executive Officer of African Life Insurance.
African Life Insurance runs a Pension Trust called Saturnia Regna Pension Trust Limited, where Muna Hantuba and African Life are also shareholders. This means that HH and his friends have a company that runs a Pension Trust that they themselves own. Most importantly, however, is the details of the physical addresses included on these PACRA registration documents. African Life owns the Anglo American Building at 74 Independence Avenue next to Ministry of Finance Headquarters in Lusaka. This building has also not been declared by HH as required under law.
Anglo American, as one of the world’s largest mining companies which only recently re-entered the Zambian marketplace with exploration licenses in North Western Province, is widely acknowledged to be one of the top campaign donors to UPND. Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC), among whose shareholders include UPND supporters Felix Mutati (through his brother) and Charles Milupi, is expecting to be awarded with a massive energy supply contract to Anglo.
The executives in Anglo American are also believed to have been involved in the so-called “Brenthurst Conspiracy,” when Hichilema and Nevers Mumba were flown to South Africa to meet with the ultra-wealthy Oppenheimer family in order to plan a takeover of the government from abroad with the goal of reducing mining royalties for foreign companies. Just today, Hichilema gave an interview where he said that if elected he would reverse the mining tax – which must have been music to the ears of his financial sponsors in Anglo American. They even consulted lawyer Bradford Machila, who had previously worked closely with Hichilema during the botched privatisation of RAMCOZ mine. As the chief legal advisor to Nevers Mumba, Machila is the one who masterminded the Supreme Court fiasco the essentially removed MMD from the electoral equation.
On his own behalf, Hakainde Hichilema has never explicitly denied that he has directly benefited from ownership in companies that won privatisation tenders. All he has said is that he’s never been charged with an offence.
Maybe one could argue that there’s nothing illegal about founding business ventures with the former head of the Zambia Privatisation Agency who had previously appointed you to sell Zambia’s assets to companies that you partly owned. But it sure isn’t right or honourable.
CorruptionGovernance Southern Africa Zambia
By Charles Nyirenda