Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) president Edith Nawakwi has revealed that UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema was queried about the low bidder for Intercontinental Hotel in Livingstone but he told her that it was the best bid so far because it came with consequential investments.
During privatization, Ms Nawakwi served as Minister of Finance. She has called Mr Hichilema to question over his role in the privatization process, saying he “illegally benefitted” from the exercise through shareholding in Sun International that bought Intercontinental Hotel in Livingstone and a house which belonged to Lima Bank, an entity that he participated in privatizing.
When she featured on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, the former minister reiterated that there were a lot better offers on the table but the UPND leader convinced her to go for the lowest bidder. She said Mr Hichilema’s argument was that other bidders just wanted the “keys to the hotel” and run it as it was while the bidder he told the government to consider was going to come with consequential investments that would have secured jobs and created more for the sector.
Ms Nawakwi said the government looked at what was presented by Mr Hichilema to make the decision. “I took the deliberate step to call Hakainde aside and said to him, is this (US$ 6.5million) the best bid? Why didn’t you take the one for US$26 million? The value is US$ 26 million, why didn’t you take the one for US$20 million? Why didn’t you take the one for US$9.5 million? There were a number of offers there. His answer was very specific and even a dull person could have understood it.
You’re talking to me, I take you for what you’re giving me, I look at the facts you have provide for me and they were plausible. His argument was that minister, these other people just want the keys for intercontinental hotel, they walk in there and clean it up, change the carpets, change the pots and start operating it as it is,” Ms Nawakwi said.
“However, this bid which I am giving to you, lower as it is, is the best bid where we are going to get 250 rooms. And there is a consequential investment of US$15 million.”She said at the time, the economy of Livingstone was dead, and the government considered the investor that promised to revive the economy. “If you sell intercontinental and someone takes the keys and walks in, and cleans the pots and starts to run it as it intercontinental, who would you rather take? You take the one who is going to get some employment.
To build 250 rooms, to bring in US$50 million, finish it and in fact there were stories that they were even going to get sand from across, I stopped it, I put another rider, I said please colleagues, when these people come in, the way the project has been structured, they want to put a fence up to the water. I instructed them that please go back and negotiate that fifty meters from the waters is public property because my relatives when they are coming out of Zambezi they are being chased by crocodiles, where are they going to run to if you put a fence?’” Ms Nawakwi said, and further challenged Mr Hichilema to fully explain himself and the benefits accrued from the privatization process.