VIC FALLS OUTRAGE
The Government has been challenged to investigate and explain to the Zambian people the sale of Intercontinental Hotel in Livingstone to Sun International, a Panama based company now trading as Avani. Outrage has been expressed that the Hotel, embracing, a national heritage, the Victoria falls was now owned by a Panamanian company in a sales transaction that was less than transparent. Political Activist Edward Mumbi noted that the hotel was mired in serious conflict of interest allegations which the Anti Corruption Commission should investigate. “Is it true that Mr. Hakainde who was reportedly the lead negotiator on behalf of Government formed Sun International in 1997 and then sold the Hotel to the company in March 1998?” he asked. Mr Mumbi has further demanded that the sale of the hotel should be clarified as it now appears the nation got a raw deal following the awarding of reduced tax when other players in the tourism sector were paying 35 percent as company tax, while Sun Hotel was paying 15 percent through an agreement negotiated by the Government team. He said ceding part of the national heritage site in Livingstone is a big scandal which must be thoroughly investigated failure to which Government will continue losing grip on the country’s natural resource, Mr Mumbi has warned. Speaking to the Daily Nation yesterday, Mr Mumbi, the former spokesperson for UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, said the privatisation of facilities near national heritage sites was a scandal that Government must not turn a blind eye to as it compromised state control over such sites, adding that if such a decision was not sanctioned by parliament, it must be reversed immediately. “You cannot put a national heritage site in private hands because it defeats the whole purpose of that declaration and also injures the reputation of Government because the national heritage site is the property for the Zambians. The latitude previous Governments gave to Senior Chief Mukuni and Mr. Hichilema is worrying hence the need to revisit these mistakes. “Putting such a site into private hands must first go to Parliament to be debated upon before we even think of privatisation and if that process was done by Government, where is the report from the Zambia Privatisation Agency? Government appears to have no authority over major economic activities in Livingstone because of these flaws,” Mr Mumbi said. He said there was a cartel which had shares in most of the institutions around the national heritage site and that Government must investigate the entire existence of such properties in Livingstone to understand who owned them and how they were acquired. “Sun International was sold by Mr. Hichilema as chief negotiator. The question, is why did he declare interest and if so why did Government allow him to continue representing it? How can a negotiator be a shareholder after the transaction? The whole privatisation of Sun International and its shareholding is fishy and Government must reverse it.,” he said.