Friday, October 30, 2009

‘Fingers will burn over Zamtel’

‘Fingers will burn over Zamtel’
By Editor
Fri 30 Oct. 2009, 04:00 CAT

THEY say real criminals only rest once they are caught; before being caught, they act as though they are the cleverest of people and yet not. It is also said that some people don't want to learn from their own and other people's mistakes or shortcomings. They always wait for their turn to blunder before they can learn.

It appears this is the path that Rupiah Banda and his minions have chosen to take in their dubious partial privatisation of Zamtel. It seems those driving and directing this transaction will stop at nothing to fulfill their personal desires even where it's absolutely clear that the consequences of their actions may be disastrous both to this country and to themselves.

We say this because the real picture over the privatisation of Zamtel is getting clearer by the day, particularly for those who have doubted or dismissed our editorial stance on this matter.

One thing that stands out in this clearly dirty episode is that the Zamtel sale is a corrupt and costly transaction in which State House, and Rupiah in particular, is heavily involved. And it's clear that the architects of this dubious and shameless undertaking are determined to extend their long fingers to other state institutions as well.

As long as they get what they want from our people, they don't care about the effect their deeds on our suffering brothers and sisters. For them, it's about themselves and the desire to have their way on virtually everything.

We are sure that by now, our people are fully aware that RP Capital Partners has strong connections or links with Rupiah's son, Henry.

Therefore, one would not be wrong to say it’s Henry who introduced RP Capital Partners in the Zamtel transaction. And nobody can accuse us of malice on this one because the above was even submitted as part of the evidence during the Dennis Chirwa tribunal. Of course, this was after Pangea Renaissance Securities Limited chief executive officer Caesar Siwale told the tribunal that Henry asked his company to provide support to RP Capital transaction over the valuation of Zamtel assets.

This was in a matter where former communications and transport minister William Harrington and ten civil society organisations had asked Chief Justice Ernest Sakala to set up a tribunal to investigate alleged corruption and abuse of office involving the then communications and transport minister Dora Siliya. We recall that during examination-in-chief led by one of the petitioners' lawyers, Wynter Kabimba, Siwale said:

"We did have some discussions with Mr. Henry Banda regarding RP Capital and the Zamtel transaction...the discussion was whether we can provide any support in the transaction given that we had an operation within the country that provides similar services."

Siwale also testified that Henry made the request on behalf of RP Capital Partners Limited verbally.

This is why we are not surprised that the same RP Capital that questionably valuated the assets of Zamtel are today the financial advisors on the privatisation of Zamtel with the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) acting as the main privatisation agents.

Again, it's the same RP Capital in collaboration with State House that is today exerting pressure on Zesco Limited to surrender its valuable asset in the form of the optic fibre network to Zamtel - a company that is earmarked for privatisation. Certainly, these manoeuvres are being made with a view to elevating the value of Zamtel, which will subsequently translate into an increase in RP Capital's commission or fees too. And it cannot be wrong for to conclude that even the bids for Zamtel are a sham because they already have decided on which of their friends or agents is getting it. But just where does RP Capital get the guts to overstep the boundary?

The answer is simple: they are agents of Rupiah and his family and are as such protected by Rupiah himself and his minions. We say so because the information on the Zesco optic fibre network in relation to Zamtel was communicated to Zesco during a meeting held at the ZDA offices and chaired by Rupiah's economic advisor, Dr Richard Chembe. Obviously, this is not a purely commercial transaction as they would want our people to believe because the writings on the wall are clear and State House's heavy involvement in this deal has exposed the motives behind this transaction.

Therefore, no amount of propaganda or manoeuvring will save Rupiah and his minions. Their own lies and deceit are catching up with them. They just have to face reality and change their plans if that is possible with them. What is happening is banditry and plunder of public assets and it should be condemned in the strongest terms. The arguments they are trying to advance on the Zesco optic fibre network cannot hold.

They are as porous as a sieve. Rupiah and his minions are cheating themselves by thinking that our people will buy into their lies. Let them not even waste our people's time by insisting that their aim is to rationalise both the Zesco and the Zamtel optic fibre networks and that collaboration between the two companies makes strategic and commercial sense. This is not true.

We know that the collaborative efforts between Zesco and Zamtel for the development of an optic fibre network started as far back as 1991, and that all efforts to develop the network together with some partnership for a win-win solution did not result in success or turn out favourable.

We also know that the most critical issue was absolute ownership of the optic fibre infrastructure that would be installed on the power lines. Zesco argued then that the Optical Ground Wire (OPGW), which has the fibre was part of the electricity infrastructure and therefore could not be co-owned with another entity.

They felt that doing so would compromise the security of electricity delivery. Zamtel equally wanted absolute ownership of the cable and did not want to go into any partnerships with Zesco and that Zamtel just wanted to pay a rental to Zesco for the use of the electricity infrastructure.

There were other meetings that followed in the early 2000s but the status quo on this matter remained unchanged. In 2006, Zamtel publicly announced that they would not partner with Zesco or use its fibre as a subscriber because they were 'too large'.

Instead they would construct their own fibre network to compete. Again, early this year there were ideas to resurrect the collaboration between these two giant parastals.

We know that Zesco offered that Zamtel could use its fibre instead of constructing its own or simply delay the implementation of their project. But Zamtel once more rejected that offer, stating that they had already contracted a Chinese firm to roll out the first phase of its fibre project. So what strategic and commercial sense have they seen now which they have failed to see all these years?

What is evident about this sudden craving for each other is that certain people have now seen that the environment is ripe and conducive to advance their corrupt activities, period!

We as well know, there are several concerns that have been raised on this matter such as the ownership of the Zesco optic fibre network either by a joint venture or Zamtel, once it’s privatised, will compromise security of supply of electricity and that the probable surrendering of the Zesco network will reduce Zesco's asset base, which has to be declared to the energy regulator and might result in the revision of the Zesco tariff structure.

It is apparent that ceding the Zesco optic fibre network to Zamtel has serious consequences and it requires foresight by those in decision-making positions. It's high time Rupiah and his minions put the interest of the Zambian people ahead of theirs. Zambia is larger than Rupiah with his excessive ambitions and desires.

On that score, we feel our people deserve an honest, dedicated and transparent leadership. And if the current skirmishes on the now Zamtel, Zesco and RP Capital Partners transaction is something to go by, then Rupiah is clearly failing our people in many ways.

A number of people have voiced out their concerns over the Zamtel and RP Capital transaction, particularly the faulty manner in which the whole process has been handled right from inception to date. On Tuesday, former Republican vice-president Enoch Kavindele said:

"Let me warn these people that this Zamtel issue will burn their fingers if it's not handled properly. They may get away with it now but a time will come when it will burn their fingers. There are a lot of people I know who served in the Chiluba government and are now serving jail sentences because of the same dubious activities."

The message is loud and clear, let those with ears hear or else fingers shall surely be burnt over Zamtel.

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