UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema yesterday charged that President Rupiah Banda, his children, Dora Siliya and the team are guilty of corruption in the sale of Zamtel and they will never wash themselves clean.
And Hichilema said he was not involved in the privatisation of RAMCOZ in Luanshya.
Commenting on the sale of Zamtel’s 75 per cent shareholding to Libya’s LAP Green Network for US$257 million despite public outcry, and government’s attacks on him that he was part of the privatisation process in the 1990s, Hichilema said President Banda, Siliya and the President’s children benefited from the “dirty” transaction.
“RP Capital Partners which valuated Zamtel assets was contracted without tenders because they wanted kick backs. There is no question about it. What else did former minister of communications and transport but now Minister of Education Dora Siliya share with RP Capital Partners over a cup of coffee? Was it just a cup of coffee or the other things, commitment to the corrupt team? State House was involved, Dora, President Banda’s children were involved,” said Hichilema in an interview. “We are all aware that the children are travelling all over now. Somebody was caught with some cash. And they are covering it. What other reason would be motivating Dora? And look at the defence, it’s like bees just stinging around when people complain. Former Republican Vice-President Enoch Kavindele is called names; I am called all sorts of names,” Hichilema
He said President Banda and Siliya’s verbal onslaught on Zambians and institutions opposed to Zamtel sale showed that they were covering their “corrupt” tracks.
Hichilema argued that many Zambians had opposed the transaction from its beginning but President Banda and his team did not heed the advice.
“It’s extremely important that the people of Zambia do realize that we had raised the flag on the privatisation of Zamtel a long time ago, starting from the tender process where they appointed RP Capital Partners without tender against the Public Procurement Act of 2008,” Hichilema said. “You are all aware that Mumba Malila as Attorney General had objected and that cost him his job, David Kapitolo director general of Zambia Tender Board Authority now Zambia Public Procurement Authority he raised issues that cost him his job and several other people and I think you are aware that Chitundu at Zesco lost his job over the optic fibre network.”
He said he still stood by his statement at the beginning of Zamtel sale that it was a corrupt process.
“There is no way Dora Siliya can try and wash this transaction clean, it has been a dirty transaction from day one. We did indicate to people that, ‘look, you never award a contract like that’. Firstly, they ignored local firms; secondly family contacts resulted in the contract of that magnitude and resulting in K70 billion to K80 billion public funds going into RP Capital Partners,” Hichilema said.
“I am sure you have followed that there is going to be a number of clowbacks on retrenchment payments, it’s not that it’s wrong, on reinvestment. There is a paragraph where they are saying the government is going to reinvest part of that money. Did they tell us how much money they are going to reinvest? You have sold a company so that you bring an investor, but you are now going to be responsible for reinvestment, from the same money you are going to be paid. That is all wrong.”
Hichilema questioned the government’s decision to sell Zamtel with the newly installed optic fibre network, which cost about US$85 million, for only US$257 million, meaning that the rest of company’s infrastructure was sold for only US$172 million.
“If you look at other expenses or costs related to optic fibre network; first there is the Zamtel expenses on fibre optic, I think it’s a substantial amount of money, I am told about US$70 million. You are aware of the Zesco optic fibre network about US$15 million. When you add the two it’s US$85 million – this is new investment. So already when you look at real estate that Zamtel owns; that price of US$257 million is completely nothing,” Hichilema said. “That is our contention. That the value is low, that the process was corruption and Dora Siliya herself was corrupt. No question about it. I am not surprised that they are all excited; maybe there is something they are sharing now. That is why they are all excited.”
He said the government should not have sold 75 per cent shares.
“There was no need to dispose of 75 per cent; they could have disposed off 51 per cent and 49 per cent could be held by Zambians,” Hichilema said. “This is our contention and nobody will bully us into submission as Rupiah Banda and Dora Siliya are trying to do. These two President Banda and Siliya have demonstrated improper conduct, corrupt conduct in the sale of Zamtel. We will never stop talking about it.”
He reminded President Banda to learn from what was happening in Ghana where former president John Kufour had sold Ghana Telecom (GT), the national telecom provider, to UK’s Vodafone.
“When John Kufour was President of Ghana and John Atta-Mills was the opposition leader, they Atta-Mills and opposition parties objected to the way in which the telecoms company was sold. I think John Kufour thought it was a joke. When John Atta-Mills went into government, they are restructuring that transaction,” Hichilema said. “We cannot say that because there is a contract signed even though the process towards signing that contract was corrupt we should be bound by it. It means that you can go and commit a crime to start with and then legalise it and then say, ‘I have already signed a legal contract’. Not even common sense allows that.”
On Siliya and chief government spokesperson Lt Gen Ronnie Shikapwasha’s statements that he should not oppose Zamtel sale because he was part of the privatization process and led to people’s suffering in Luanshya because of his role in the sale of RAMCOZ, Hichilema said he was never involved in the privatisation of RAMCOZ.
“These guys are completely misinterpreting things. RAMCOZ was sold in 1997-1998. The records are there. One doesn’t have to be clever. I was not involved in the privatisation of RAMCOZ. But they want to tie it to me. Even if that was the case, which it wasn’t the case, would you say, ‘if there was a dirty or somebody broke the law, I am also going to break the law’. That was Chiluba’s transaction. First of all Chiluba never liked me, it’s a common fact, as he didn’t like many Zambians. He couldn’t give me that one RAMCOZ privatisation,” said Hichilema. “This is a team of guilty people, whom Zambians have caught up with. They thought they were clever, they thought they would use the presidency, they thought they could use children; they thought they could use the ministry and place people who are friendly.”
The government has sold 75 per cent of Zamtel shares to Lap Green Network of Libya. The Zambian government will only remain with 25 per cent shares in Zamtel and only two of the seven board members.
A cross section of Zambians have opposed the sale.
According to its official website, Lap Green Network is a telecommunications operator owned 100 per cent by Libyan African Investment Portfolio, which was incorporated in 2006 as a Libyan foreign investment vehicle primarily focusing on contributing to the development of African countries. Lap had an initial capital of US$5 billion. Lap Green Network has operations in Uganda Telecom, Sonitel Niger, Sahel Com Niger, Rwandatel Rwanda, GreenN Cote D’Ivoire (Oricel), GreenN Sierra Leone (Ambitel), GreenN Togo and GreenN South Sudan (Gemtel).