By Hon. Bowman Lusambo
CHILLING AT YOUR OWN HOTEL WHILE GOVERNMENT FOOTS THE BILL

Against convention, President Hakainde Hichilema has decided to host his guest President Paul Kagame of Rwanda at a private hotel in Livingstone for two days.

Tradition has always been that visiting Heads of State would meet the host (our President) at State House for formal bilateral engagements, dinner will be hosted at a 5 start hotel within Lusaka and if the programme permits, squeeze in an in-out trip to Livingstone for tourism promotional purposes. This arrangement has worked for decades and delivered results at a cheaper cost to the treasury until President Hichilema decided to host President Kagame for a whole two days away from Lusaka.

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If this arrangement was held elsewhere even on the Moon, we wouldn’t have raised questions but hosting this very important meeting at a private hotel in which we believe Mr. Hichilema still has very strong business interests raises serous questions bordering on conflict of interest, morality and poor decision making on the part of Mr. Hichilema and all those helping him govern.

It is public knowledge that Mr. Hichilema and his business associate Chief Mukuni still have huge business interests in that facility.

As for Mr. Hichilema, we know he has never publicly relinquished his business interests in that hotel in which he irregularly became a Director after he worked as ZPA Negotiating Chairman for the sale of the hotel around July 1997.

Mr. Hichilema as Negotiating Chairman incorporated Sun International Zambia Limited on 18th November 1997 and in March 1998, he sold the hotel to a company that he had incorporated and in which he was a Director.

We know that the ownership structure of the hotel has changed over time but what has remained constant is Mr. Hichilema and Chief Mukuni’s stake in the hotel.

As recent as 2021, PACRA records showed that Avani Hotel is owned by Minor Hotels Zambia Limited, this company is in turn owned by a Mauritius company MHG International Holding while Hakainde S. Hichilema is just a Director.

Ever wondered why despite his anti corruption rhetoric, this is a man who has refused to declare his assets and liabilities? He goes on to tell you that he has not received a salary for 8 months as President, well, he knows that he is using the same office to cut deals and pay himself heftily.

There was absolutely no need to converge in Livingstone for a whole two days just to sign seven agreements at huge government expense.

We know that the pandemic has hit hotels badly as there is little or no international travel but using state coffers to give yourself some private business is beyond immoral.

For those that might not be aware, moving the presidency to another town for even a few hours is very expensive but when you do it for a whole three days, the cost to a bleeding treasury is colossal. We also know that some officers in advance parties have been stationed in Livingstone for over a week preparing for the trip and getting daily allowances which could never have been paid if the meeting was held in Lusaka at State House.

When you host a Head of State in the manner President Kagame is visiting, you take up the entire costs associated with the trip.

Lusaka, our capital city and especially State House has necessary security apparatus needed to secure the lives and property of visiting VVIPs.

By hosting President Kagame, a highly security conscious individual, the security upgrades that required modifications at Avani Hotels in order to host two Heads of State for over 48 Hours is unimaginable.

For a man who claims to have inherited empty coffers, President Hichilema has strange appetite to spend money he claims he nation doesn’t have.

Going forward, we wish to appeal to everyone working closely with President Hichilema to advise him against mixing state affairs with his private businesses. When something similar happened to President Trump in his first few months in office, the American Congress moved to stop him from hosting state functions at Trump Towers, his private hotel and he heeded, we pray our does.

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