Privatisation inquiry must excite UPND

As observed by development activist and entrepreneur Patrick Sikana, Zambia is very good at setting up commissions of inquiry to find out what everybody already knows, but we can’t find enough money to find out what we don’t know. Indeed, there is no one who doesn’t know which individuals privatized Zambia’s mines and parastatals; yet we all know whom the proposed commission of inquiry on privatization is meant to target.

There is nothing that the PF government would like to inquire on this agenda; this is a clear attempt by State House to set up a dragnet targeted at catching UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema. We know this from what they say during campaigns. So, the idea is to find Mr Hichilema wanting on the allegation that, as a consultant in the privatization process, he sold government assets to himself.

Mr Hichilema has suffered a lot of ridicule over this privatization issue for many years, especially under this PF regime. This regime has been looking around for some dirt that they can link to the UPND leader but they have failed. They can’t find him involved in any money laundering activities, yet he is rich. They can’t link him to any corruptly awarded government tenders, yet his businesses are thriving. They tried to make the people of Zambia believe that Mr Hichilema is a Satanist, but that did not hold any water either. So what’s left for them is to now claim that the man stole from the privatization process.

We find this to be very unfair for two reasons. Firstly, unlike President Edgar Lungu’s wealth, Hichilema’s money is traceable to anyone who has been around long enough and to those who have cared to ask him. His success story is in public domain for all to see and read. The UPND leader did not become a millionaire overnight; he simply invested wisely at a very tender age and the fruits of his investments have continued to overflow. In fact, Mr Hichilema would probably have been 10 times richer had he not joined politics because he is a gifted businessman.

We also find it unfair to accuse the UPND leader of having stolen from the privatization process because he has never served in government. If at all there was any criminality that he was involved in as a consultant, surely the MMD governments of Frederick Chiluba, Levy Mwanawasa and Rupiah Banda would have had him arrested and prosecuted.

In fact, a crime doesn’t expire until it is disposed off through the courts of law, and so the police under President Edgar Lungu have every right to arrest Mr Hichilema today, and take him to court for fraudulently selling government assets to himself. There is no need to waste money on a privatization inquiry when we already know the supposed culprit who has already been declared guilty before trial.

But if it pleases State House to appoint a few friends to another lucrative, but useless commission of inquiry, let them proceed and the UPND must welcome this move with both hands. This is a process that should excite the opposition party because it will grant their 2021 presidential candidate an opportunity to clear his name from another smear campaign.

It is a known secret that President Lungu is scared of facing Mr Hichilema again in 2021, and we have written all about this in the past. President Lungu even told a public rally in July 2018 that it hurts him when he hears the UPND insisting that they want Mr Hichilema to continue leading them.

We can go back, one more time, to look at how the PF has frantically and desperately attempted to block Mr Hichilema from contesting elections in this country, or to at least remove him from the helm of the opposition party.

In 2015, Mr Davies Chama who was PF secretary general then, said Zambia would be better if it returned to a one party state; and he went further to declare that by 2021 PF would make sure that there would be no opposition. The next thing we saw was a maneuver by ruling party stooges to change the Constitution so that elections would be held every 10 years – arguing that five years was too short a term for any meaningful development. But they ran out of time.

When the PF faced Mr Hichilema in the 2016 elections, they were terrified. They knew that their chances of winning the election were slim, and indeed they had to manipulate, abuse the electoral process to emerge victorious. The PF doesn’t want a repeat of that experience. They cannot afford to take that risk again because they won with such a narrow margin, so they have redeemed the agenda to get rid of competition.

When the treason charges failed to break Mr Hichilema in 2017, the PF moved to the next plan in line – change the Constitution to limit the number of times a person can contest the presidential elections. That too seems to be a failed scheme, as it seems to have been rejected by the International community that funds Zambia’s elections.

Next they used a Lufwanyama resident who wrote a letter of complaint against Mr Hichilema to the Chief Justice and attempted to drag Deputy Chief Justice Mervin Mwanamwambwa into the agenda of citing the UPND leader so that he is sentenced to prison for contempt, like they have done to Gregory Chifire.

None of the above tricks has worked, and the PF is now looking for new grounds which they can use to stop Mr Hichilema from participating in the next general elections. It is the “50 per cent plus one” vote threshold which is giving him headaches. They fear that if they fail to rig successfully and win in the first round, Mr Hichilema may get the second round with the support of the rest of the opposition.

This is why they are proposing the privatization inquiry to fix him. It’s not about Chiluba who was President, or Mwanawasa or Rupiah Banda, or indeed any MMD leader. It is about Hichilema and the need to seclude him from the next elections. If they don’t succeed to seclude him, they want Zambians to believe that he is responsible for the misery that they are going through. They want the jobless youths to shift their anger from President Lungu to Mr Hichilema, by 2021.

But we wonder why the PF is scared of such a ‘political failure’ like Mr Hichilema. If President Lungu has fairly beaten this candidate twice before in an election, without any rigging involved, why should he be scared to face him again for the third time? Shouldn’t that excite the PF that they will be walking over the easiest opponent?

Well, we know that the truth is frightening the PF. They know that passing an exam through leakage is a very risky undertaking. You may be lucky once, or twice but the more you get involved in malpractice, the higher the risk of getting caught. This is what the PF is trying to fix and Zambians must open their eyes and be very vigilant ahead of the next tripartite elections.

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