Obasanjo asked RB to back HH – African Confidential Report

Unlike the distorted version published elsewhere, here is the full article published by Africa Confidential on the alleged attempt by the Oppenheimer mining dynasty in South Africa and former Nigerian President Obasanjo to make RB and Nevers Mumba back HH for the presidency.

The article clearly states that former president Rupiah Banda was being asked to be ‘godfather of HH, and that he agreed but backed out when he was told to sign.

 Note also that one of the longstanding correspondents for African confidential in Zambia is former State House spokesperson Dickson Jere.

Dignitaries and South African businessmen are trying to unite the opposition against the Patriotic Front

A group of influential outsiders is struggling to galvanise the fractious opposition to beat the late Michael Sata‘s party in the presidential by-election due in January, Africa Confidential can reveal. Their efforts have not been helped by former President Rupiah Banda‘s announcement on 17 November that he will stand on the Movement for Multiparty Democracy ticket. Nevers Sekwila Mumba, Banda’s successor as party leader, also insists he will be the MMD’s candidate. Banda, then the incumbent, lost the presidential election to Sata in 2011.

These foreign dignitaries and companies want to end the rule of what they see as the ‘anti-business’ Patriotic Front as Zambia faces worsening economic conditions. Nigeria‘s former President Olusegun Obasanjo has been chairing meetings for the group which includes Ivor Ichikowitz, the Chairman of Paramount Group which specialises in arms and aerospace contracts in Africa.

The meetings were facilitated by the Brenthurst Foundation, the think-tank established by theOppenheimer mining dynasty in South Africa, as preparations were in train for Sata’s burial on 11 November. During his presidency, Banda brought in Brenthurst in 2010 to discuss policy reforms in the wake of complaints from mining companies about the raising of corporate taxation from 25% to 30% and the imposition of a windfall tax.

The outsiders wanted Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND), to lead a coalition including the formerly governing MMD to victory. Zambia’s opposition leaders were flown to the Oppenheimer family’s luxurious Tswalu game reserve for meetings run by Obasanjo, who also chairs the Brenthurst Foundation.

Obasanjo has long been an influential power-broker in Africa; Ichikowitz, the founder of Paramount Group, has a network of business and political contacts, including former PresidentJoyce Banda of Malawi and Raila Odinga, the opposition leader in Kenya (AC Vol 55 No 3,Banda and the jets).

They were trying to persuade Rupiah Banda, who is 77, to back the younger Hichilema in the presidential election in an electoral pact, according to a source close to one of the participants. A former managing partner in accountancy firm Grant Thornton, Hichilema played a key role in the privatisation of Zambia’s copper mines; accordingly, he is revered by mining companies but excoriated by trades unionists.

Banda was asked to provide a list of trusted lieutenants to be appointed to key government positions should Hichilema win. It was also assumed that a Hichilema victory would mean the dropping of corruption cases against Banda’s son Henry, which they insist were launched for political reasons by Sata’s PF government. Henry Banda, currently in exile for legal reasons, could secure a senior government post under the arrangement.

During the most recent talks in Tswalu, Banda and Hichilema held closed-door talks under Obasanjo’s guidance. Insiders say Banda agreed to an electoral pact but changed his mind when he was asked to sign an agreement days later. This angered Obasanjo and Ichikowitz, who had wanted Banda to be ‘Godfather’ to Hichilema when he formed his government.

It seems Banda’s reluctance is due to his own ambition to stand for the presidency again. Indeed, he thinks Hichilema should back him, not the other way around. Banda’s team say that if he won the election in January, he would only be able to serve out the rest of the late Michael Sata‘s term, until 2016. Banda could not stand again because he would have reached the constitutional two-term limit. Therefore, Banda’s people say, the presidential elections in 2016 would be the best time for Hichilema to make an electoral alliance with the MMD and receive Banda’s support.

Banda retired from active politics in 2011 after his defeat by Sata but remains in control of the MMD, even though it has been nominally run by the televangelist Mumba, who was Banda’s former Vice-President.

 

The party is dependent on Banda’s finance, and its members strongly support him.

After the Banda-Hichilema talks failed, the brokers brought Mumba to the table. Mumba was whisked to South Africa just before Sata’s burial. Mumba appeared with a team of advisors, which unsettled the brokers. They included MMD National Secretary Muhabi Lungu, party Treasurer Mwansa Mbulakulima and the veteran member of parliament Jack Mwiimbu, Mumba’s legal advisor.

Obasanjo tried to persuade Mumba to pull out of the race and back Hichilema. Although both sides spoke openly, the meeting ended in stalemate. They resolved that they should resume the dialogue and try to negotiate an electoral pact after Sata’s funeral.

A follow-up meeting took place on 12 November in Lusaka but Banda and Hichilema still could not agree. We hear Ichikowitz is particularly enthusiastic about the deal. ‘Ivor and the group are still pushing the old man [Banda] to back Hakainde in the polls,’ an insider close to the talks said.

Cabinet cracks
While the opposition struggles to find a common candidate, the PF’s internal politics are just as messy. Just a day after Sata’s death, major cracks in cabinet emerged, we have now learned. Sata had left Justice and Defence Minister Edgar Lungu in charge when he left for London on his final trip. Lungu was unwilling to give up power until Attorney General Musa Mwenyethreatened him, and the ministers backing him, with arrest and a treason charge unless he ceded to Vice-President Guy Scott in accordance with the constitution

Preparations were made for Lungu’s arrest should he not give way. Although Lungu did so, the High Court is being asked to declare him acting President. However, Christine Kaseba Satasaid on 16 November that her husband left no instructions that Lungu should take over the presidency after his death and had every confidence in Scott.

Although it is clear that Scott is the constitutional leader, many don’t want a white man to lead the country, even if only for 90 days. The MP and former minister Catherine Namugala raised the issue in Parliament; she wondered how a country cerebrating 50 years of Independence could have a white man leading it. Lungu has been pushing for a small Central Committee of the party to endorse him as presidential candidate while Scott insists the nomination must come out of a National Conference. Lungu has fought back, warning Scott of dire consequences if he insists on a conference; Lungu says there isn’t the time or the money for such a conference.

Indeed, Lungu is not well-funded and is unlikely to mount a successful campaign at the 6,000-delegate conference. He would almost certainly lose there to former Defence Minister and wealthy businessman Godfrey Mwamba. Sata’s uncle and Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda is planning to throw his hat in the ring provided other candidates withdraw and back him as a compromise. But he is 76 years old and in poor health.

Sata’s eldest son, Mulenga, has announced his intention to take the PF candidacy, as has Sata’s nephew, Deputy Minister of Commerce Miles Bwalya Sampa, although the latter has little chance. Former Justice Minister and at one time Sata’s protégé Wynter Kabimba is planning to stand. Kabimba is backed by Fred Mmembe, the publisher of The Post newspaper and the Director of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito .

Although The Post has been calling Lungu a gambler and an alcoholic, Kabimba’s chances of getting the nomination are slim.

 

COURTESY OF AFRICAN CONFIDENTIAL

 

Share this post
Skip to toolbar