By ANDREW MUKOMA
THE controversial sale of Intercontinental Hotel at US$ 6.5 million instead of US$ 25 million it was valued was yesterday subject of a demonstration by former workers who claim to have suffered personal irreparable losses.
They supported setting up of Commission of Inquiry into the privatisation of state assets in which UPND president Hakainde Hichilema was involved as consultant.
They have wondered how a property such as the Intercontinental Hotel which was on the prime land overlooking the Victoria Falls could be sold at a give-away price of US$ 6.5 million and to the lowest bidder.
Speaking on behalf of former employees of Eagle Travel, Felix Daka, said that the sale of the Mosi-oa-tunya Intercontinental Hotel and other assets in the tourist capital was not worth the value of the properties.
Mr Daka said the affected former employees would stand firm and supports calls for the establishment of an inquiry into privatization.
“We want to know how that price was arrived at and we have more questions than answers. In short, the criminal manner in which the privatization process was done must be probed. The crime associated with privatization such as failing to declare interest must be prosecuted.
“We the former employees of Mosi-oa-tunya Intercontinental Hotel, Eagle Travel, Rainbow Lodge join other well-meaning Zambians call upon the President of Zambia Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu to appoint a commission of inquiry into the privatization of state assets in the mid-1990s.
Mr Daka said that Zambians were entitled to know the facts behind the sale.
“We know that our economy was struggling in the 1999s and we needed to relieve the state of the burden of running parastatal companies some of which depended on state grants or subsidies. The process of privatisation of Mosi-oa-tunya Intercontinental Hotel, Rainbow and Eagle Travel was marked by what we believe to have been underhand methods,” Mr Daka said.
He said that this must be investigated through an exhaustive inquiry adding that the former employees believe that on Mosi-oa-tunya Intercontinental Hotel and Rainbow Lodge, there was a deliberate failure to declare interest.
“We keep asking ourselves how the negotiator arrived at that price when there were other bidders with higher offers of US$ 20 million,” he said.
Another former employee, Ernerst Kapikanya, who worked at Rainbow Lodge said that during the sale of the property to Sun International, employees were duped that they would be employed by the new owner.
However, Mr Kapikanya said, that did not happen.
“As former Rainbow Lodge workers, we would like to appeal to the President of the Republic of Zambia to help us get full benefits like the way Moses delivered children of Israel from Egypt
He said that the lodge was making profit and that even today, it was still going to do so.
“A lot of former workers have died, children are suffering, some stopped going to school long time ago because of the way these properties were sold out,” he said.
In receiving the petitions, Dr Hamukale assured the aggrieved families that their message would be conveyed to President Lungu.
Dr Hamukale, who shed tears when addressing the affected former employees, said that some parents has gone to the grave without receiving their benefits.
By ANDREW MUKOMA