TRANSPARENCY International Zambia has challenged Lusaka South Multi Facility Economic Zone (LS-MFEZ) to explain what decision making process led to the valuation of eight plots, which Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini’s company bought, at K100,000.
And TIZ says by using his office as Speaker to direct LS-MFEZ to respond to a query on his behalf, Dr Matibini is effectively insinuating that he used the authority of the office of Speaker of the National Assembly to gain what appears to be an undue advantage in a private business transaction.
Last week, News Diggers! published an investigation which revealed that a company belonging to Dr Matibini paid K100, 000 (about US$5,000) for eight plots worth K21 million (US$994,000) at LSMFEZ.
When contacted to explain how Mishikili Properties Development Limited got the land in question, Speaker Matibini who is the company executive chairman declined to comment and directed MFEZ management to respond to a News Diggers Query, saying the Speakers’ office does not respond to the media.
And responding on behalf of Matibini, MFEZ acting managing director Kennedy Mwila confirmed that the Speaker’s company only paid K100,000 but claimed that the land in question was re-evaluated and priced at K4.4 million, adding that the Speaker’s company was owing K4.3 million which is expected to be paid by June 2022.
But in a statement to News Diggers, Sunday, TIZ executive director Maurice Nyambe wondered why LSMFEZ resuscitated a legally closed transaction.
“Transparency International Zambia (TI-Z) is concerned by revelations made by a News Diggers
investigation to the effect that a company by the name of Mishikili Properties Development Limited belonging to Speaker of the National Assembly Dr. Patrick Matibini paid a paltry ZMW100,000 for eight pieces of land whose market value was ZMW21 million at the Lusaka South Multi Facility Economic Zone (LS-MFEZ). Our concern is exacerbated by the fact that Dr. Matibini’s apparent response to a press query seeking to clarify this issue was that the office of the Speaker of National Assembly does not respond to the media, and the LS-MFEZ Management went ahead to respond purportedly on behalf of the Speaker. TI-Z is appalled by the several anomalies that are clear to see over this matter. First, we do not understand why LS-MFEZ have taken it upon themselves to respond on behalf of Dr. Matibini because unless we are not privy to some agreement that was reached between the two parties, LS-MFEZ is not the official spokesperson for Dr. Matibini,” Nyambe stated.
“Putting that issue aside, the response by LS-MFEZ itself appears to be a dodgy one that raises more questions than it intends to answer. LS-MFEZ admits that the ZMW100,000 that Mishikili paid was not a down payment but a full payment for the 8 plots in question, but that the value of the plots was later re-evaluated upwards. What decision-making processes led to the plots being valued that low in the first place? And if indeed a re-evaluation was done, what necessitated that re-evaluation? TI-Z is very skeptical about LS-MFEZ’s explanation because if indeed the ZMW100,000 that was paid was the full value of the plots in question, it means that the transaction was legally completed and could not therefore be resuscitated for the purpose of re-evaluation, without running into legal implications, especially if that re-evaluation resulted in the upward revision of the value of the plots as we are being asked to believe. We therefore challenge management at LS-MFEZ to provide the Zambian public with documentary evidence responding to these questions, including evidence to show under what circumstances a re-evaluation was done on plots whose purchase had already been legally completed according to LS-MFEZ’s own statement. We would like to remind all concerned that LS-MFEZ is a state owned enterprise which means the citizens of Zambia are the most important stakeholders in this regard and have the right to know how the company is being run and to have an assurance that this is being done above board and in a manner that protects the public resources that are used by the institution.”
And Nyambe said Dr Matibini should not drag the office of the Speaker of the National Assembly into a seemingly dodgy business transaction involving his private company.
“TI-Z would also like to challenge Dr. Matibini to come out in the open and give his own
explanation of how his company was able to get a staggering 99.5% discount on pieces of
land located in an area as prime as a multi-facility economic zone. We find his response
that the Speaker’s office does not respond to the media very erroneous in that it fails to
differentiate between Dr. Matibini the Speaker of the National Assembly and Dr. Matibini the
Chairperson of a private company. The transaction in question was not with the Office of the
Speaker but with Dr. Matibini in his capacity as Chairman of Mishikili Properties. Dr. Matibini
should therefore not drag the office of Speaker of the National Assembly into this seemingly
dodgy business arrangement. That being the case, the office Dr. Matibini holds requires that
he should be above board even in his private dealings and any suggestion to the contrary is
something that should concern every well-meaning citizen of Zambia,” he stated.
“We therefore challenge Dr. Matibini to give the citizens of Zambia his assurance that he acted above board in this particular transaction by giving a comprehensive response to the query that
was sent to him by News Diggers. TI-Z would further like to point out that by using his office
as Speaker to direct LS-MFEZ to respond on his behalf, Dr. Matibini is effectively
insinuating that he used the authority of the office of Speaker of the National Assembly to
gain what appears to be an undue advantage in a private business transaction, and if that is
the case, then the implications would be grave. Again, we challenge Dr. Matibini to tell the nation what role his being Speaker of the National Assembly played in him obtaining the
huge advantage he obtained in what was a private business transaction. Given all these
facets to this matter, we are of the view that Dr. Matibini’s casual response to the News
Diggers query was very ill-conceived and opens him up to unwanted speculation and
innuendos when he can, we assume, easily quell the speculation by giving his
comprehensive side of the story.”
Meanwhile, Nyambe noted that there was a lack of consistent strategic direction and oversight of LSMFEZ which left room for dodgy transactions.
“Lastly, TI-Z wishes to remind all concerned that the 2018 Auditor General report on
parastatals did cite a number of irregularities obtaining at LS-MFEZ, including the alarming
fact that in the five-year period between 2013 and 2018, the institution had four (4) different
Boards of Directors whose reigns ranged from three months to three years. This entailed
that there was a lack of consistent strategic direction and oversight of the company, and it is
no wonder that transactions as dodgy as the one involving Dr. Matibini’s company were
allowed to happen. We urge the Ministry of Commerce Trade and Industry to facilitate an
independent investigation into this matter because our suspicion is that what has emerged
could be just the tip of a very big iceberg. We trust that LS-MFEZ and Dr. Matibini, being at the centre of this transaction, will both play their parts in fully responding to the questions that have arisen in order to bring this matter to bed,” stated Nyambe.