RECENTLY when the President officiated at the Media Conference in Lusaka, he spoke strongly against publishing information that tends to agitate members of the public without making an effort to verify. The good news is that journalists are always eager to ask questions. The bad news is that those from whom answers are expected prefer to either remain mute or to give false information.

An example of what we are talking about can be the case at hand. Our investigation has yielded information that is pointing to a worrying relationship between the President of the Republic of Zambia and the Oppenheimers’ Brenthurst Foundation. In particular, our findings are raising questions around a man called Mr Greg Mills who happens to be the director of the Brenthurst Foundation. This man has been frequenting Zambia since the UPND formed government.

We have looked on the Brenthurst Foundation website and we have seen that it is a South African based organisation and there is no Zambian among the employees listed as team members. They are all South African, save for two staff members who are Ghanaian. The website also lists a group of board members. We noticed some famous names such as former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former South Africa president Kgalema Motlanthe and a Mr Jonathan Oppenheimer among other powerful names. But there is no Zambian representing Zambian interests on that board. The Brenthurst Foundation website goes further to list individuals across the world whom it considers as its associates. There is an American, a Rwandese, a Mozambican, a Congolese, plenty of South Africans, even a Malawian. But there is no Zambian listed as their associate.

Meanwhile, things are happening here in Zambia and Brenthurst Foundation is at the centre of it. What is going on? Mr Greg Mills, the boss at Brenthurst Foundation has been frequenting Zambia in a manner that is raising eyebrows. Word around the corridors of power is that he has an express pass in and out of the Community House where our Republican President lives. We are being told that he is even involved in the crafting of the economic reform programme for Zambia. We would like to hear from President Hichilema. Is this true? If it is true, then let him explain why. Is it that he doesn’t trust our Zambian technocrats to do the job? Who are these people and what is their agenda in Zambia? What discussions are they having with our elected leaders?

Not long ago, there was an unannounced ‘security meeting’ organised by the Brenthurst Foundation in the Lower Zambezi which President Hichilema attended. It so happens that the host for this ‘security meeting’ was Royal Zambezi, a lodge that is owned by First Quantum Minerals. Not long after that ‘security meeting’ we were hearing that First Quantum Minerals is pledging over a billion dollars worth of mining investment.

Mr President sir, what was really being discussed at that meeting between yourself, Brenthurst and FQM? Is it okay that you should attend such a meeting without disclosing it to the public? We have asked Honourable Situmbeko Musokotwane to explain what role Mr Greg Mills is playing in the UPND government, especially in the negotiations with mining companies regarding tax concessions, but the minister says there is nothing of truth in all these allegations. Is he suggesting that we are hallucinating? Are we so crazy that we are pointing at a non-existent Greg Mills in our country?

We have observed that the meeting held by the President at Lower Zambezi took place against the background where it seems technocrats were being pressured to give all kinds of concessions to First Quantum. How can our technocrats negotiate freely and in the interest of our country when the people they are negotiating with are having secret meetings with the Head of State? What is the role of Mr Greg Mills in these negotiations?

Our investigations suggest that when these negotiations are being done between our government officials and the investors, Mr Greg Mills is present. Is this true? We know that a process is underway if not already concluded where FQM shall be given tax concessions for as many as 10-12 years. Please tell us that this is not true. This is one time when we hope our investigation is wrong. Since the President says he doesn’t like us agitating the public, let him respond to these allegations. Let him explain to his Zambian voters how he knows this Greg Mills and what kind of business is of interest to him in Zambia.

One thing that President Hichilema should not underestimate is our people’s resolve to defend their resources. He has no right to give away tax revenues in the name of attracting investments. If he goes ahead with this, he will be conceding to state capture. As we stated in our editorial opinion yesterday, those who fund political party campaigns have a tendency of attempting to influence tax policy in their favour once their candidate is elected into power.

To quote the words recently attributed to Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame: “It is the worst form of criminality for any leader in Africa to give tax concessions to companies for them to mine without paying taxes.” We also agree with President Kagame when he says “some leaders are comedians because they prefer to remove subsidies on commodities but give tax breaks to mining giants”.

Our people will not accept deals that are being negotiated secretly with the help of individuals who have no loyalty to Zambia. People like Mr Greg Mills, may be friends to the President, but they owe us no patriotic duty. It is unacceptable that such an important task should be ceded to them. What we are hearing about the negotiations with FQM are a clear indication that there is a failure to manage the economy, the same sector they told us they were going to fix. President Hichilema and his government should not be allowed to repeat the privatisation era mistakes that have cost this country so dearly. Mr President, fix the economy, but don’t give our money away to FQM. Keep Mr Greg Mills as your private friend, but let him not be the one to draft our economic reform programme. Zambians voted for you, not Mr Greg Mills.