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 2009-08-17 02:15 pm Back to NEWS
Sale of Zamtel likely to be fraudulent – Zukas

Veteran politician Simon Zukas has said the sale of Zamtel is likely to be fraudulent because the process preceding the transaction has not been transparent.

Meanwhile, most participants to the Economics Association of Zambia (EAZ) public discussion under the theme 'Privatisation of Zamtel - What are the Economic Benefits?' called for a peaceful demonstration to halt the sale of three quarters of the country's biggest telecommunication company, stating that the government has failed to heed to dialogue.

Contributing to the debate, Zukas said the hiring of RP Capital to evaluate the net asset value of Zamtel was done without transparency.

Zukas however said it was more prudent to sell Zamtel than to have the company liquidated and workers get very little out of it. "It should be privatised. As to the degree, then we can discuss that but the one point I would like to make…what is the point of asking to see the RP Capital report when we were never consulted transparently about choosing it to assess the assets of Zamtel?" Zukas asked. "As far as I am concerned, the report is not worth anything…so, we would have to find someone else to be given assessment of what Zamtel is worth. But the important thing is that what Zamtel is worth is not its assets, its assets are old and probably out of date but the assets of Zamtel are the customers that will come in the future. That is where the value lies. Anyone coming in here is not interested in buying the assets. They are going to look at the market…as Zambia develops, they have seen how the cell phones have taken off. The market is there and that is what they will be looking at, but my main concern is that there should transparency. That is the key.

"We started with lack of transparency in choosing the consultant, now all the emotions should be concentrated on making sure that whoever is chosen as managing partner should be chosen in a transparent manner and we should be sure that that partner has the capacity to run Zamtel and not act in the way some of our investors have acted; when the going gets tough, they run away."

And most members of audience contended that there was need for a peaceful demonstration to halt the process of privatising Zamtel, which they said was laced with corruption.

The audience observed that whereas other national issues like Zesco electricity tariffs had been subjected to thorough debate, the government was evidently bulldozing its way in the manner it was handling the privatisation process.

Former Copperbelt University Students Union (COBUSU) president Emmanuel Mwange said the demonstration was the only way of informing the government that Zambians had rejected its roadmap on Zamtel.

"We can't come and start massaging ourselves…maybe if we decided that come next week Monday, we are going to hold a demonstration to demand that before Zamtel is given away…how are we going to ensure that those concerns are addressed? I propose that we don't become jokers," said Mwange. "If cadres can demonstrate to show their foolishness, why can't we demonstrate to show some meaningful and purposeful vision for our country Zambia? So, I challenge everybody to make sure we protect our interest."

His sentiments were echoed by former University of Zambia Students Union (UNZASU) president Antonio Mwanza who said continuing to dialogue with the government over the matter was a waste of time.

He also complained that most educated people had become averse towards matters of governance.

"What worries me is the level of lack of participation by the learned people. We have left the issues of governance in the hands of riff-raffs but we expect proper results from people who don't even understand their own lives. We are wasting our time," said Mwanza. "So, it is time for us to stand up and be a part of that process of governance. Any more dialogue will not change anything…the saying of the wise is that if you want peace, you should be ready for war in order to earn peace. What are we going to do to ensure that equity partner does not take Zamtel?"

Another member of the audience, Heather Hanene said there was need to seek the legal route of blocking the privatisation of Zamtel, and that if it failed, massive demonstration remained the only alternative.

Earlier, National Union of Communications Workers (NUCW) president Clement Kasonde said Zamtel workers accepted the privatisation of the company with a heavy heart after the government, the majority shareholder, rejected the union's plans to recapitalise it.

Kasonde said the government's move was a sharp contrast to Western governments that had offered rescue packages to companies that had been hit by the global financial crisis. 

"For us as a union, our mandate is not just about representing our workers…we have considered what is happening in Zamtel and its indebtedness and the failure by the shareholder, the government, to recapitalise the company…painfully, we have accepted that we allow the company to be privatised purely on the basis that we want Zamtel to survive," said Kasonde.

But communications minister Professor Geoffrey Lungwangwa has maintained that the sale of the majority shares of the telecommunications company is the surest way of guaranteeing its survival.

In his draft ministerial statement to Parliament last Friday, Prof Lungwangwa said based on the recommendations given to government by RP Capital, there was need for government to look for an equity partner who could buy 75 per cent shareholding in Zamtel, while the government retained 25 per cent equity in the company.

Prof Lungwangwa said the government would award the 75 per cent shares to a qualified organisation of any nationality, including Zambian, which would demonstrate that it had the financial capacity and management experience to make the telecommunications company competitive.

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