NJEKWA Anamela says the privatisation of Zambian public-owned companies was the biggest fraud in Africa.
And Anamela, who is UNIP vice-president, says 1991 was a tragedy for UNIP in many ways.
Anamela recalled that Zambia’s public assets were “plundered” and that the country was driven 40 years backwards in terms of its manufacturing and industrial development.
“Let me say this; one former director of Zambia Privatisation Agency is reported as having said ‘the biggest fraud in Africa was the Zambia privatisation story.’ I agree! By 1991, we created almost a self-sustaining economy, except for the challenges of the foreign exchange and the capacity of the industries because of lack of raw materials,” Anamela explained, when he visited The Mast head office in Lusaka’s Ibex Hill last week.
“Our manufacturing and industry sector was operating around 30 per cent capacity. But otherwise, in terms of the commercial industrial base, we had it. So, when all these companies were looted…. The public sector comprised of just over 280 companies and 257 of those were privatised in one move and either the money disappeared first or the assets!”
He indicated that after 27 years, Zambians now know that privatisation could not be a panacea for development.
“It does not have all the answers. So, obviously there is a re-think that the public sector has a very important role to play. To hear of a government that wants to do away with the little it has in the hands, then you know that they are not speaking the language of the people but their own self-gain language,” Anamela said, adding this was not the period for selling the little shares that were remaining in the ZCCM-IH or the little shares that were in big mining companies.
“We should be increasing them (shares), instead of selling them. We must come up with more creative approaches that lead to a better ownership…. These minerals are what Zambia has and our people should benefit. Our people should benefit and not only from dividends which, sometimes, are not forthcoming because of the creative manner of multinational corporations which are able to hide production figures. But Zambians must benefit also from profit-sharing through ownership; through seeing what is inside there and not being told by fake financial figures and so forth. So, it’s sad to hear of people reflecting that ‘we have offers.’ Offers from global crooks and conmen to defraud your own people! That should not be the case. We would want to appeal to those who are privileged to be in authority to re-think their strategy.”
Anamela, who was accompanied by UNIP deputy secretary general Reverend Alfred Banda, pointed out that the country’s former ruling party has learnt lessons in the last 27 years of it being in the opposition.
“We have come from very far; in our 60 years of experience as the United National Independence Party, we’ve learnt to read certain situations. We know that we too made our mistakes. But we’ve learnt lessons of 1991 and the last 27 years that we’ve been in opposition. We’ve also seen certain trends and we can tell that the mood in the country is changing. This political wave, if not handled in the interest of the people, will swallow those who are mismanaging it,” Anamela cautioned.
And Anamela said most people did not realise that 1991 was a tragedy for UNIP in many ways.
He explained that “it was not just a tragedy that we lost power but maybe that also we lost a capacity of a very knowledgeable and experienced national leadership.”
“All of a sudden, the whole national leadership of a different kind became destitute, from the office orderly to the president. Some of these were men and women of substance; some of them were government technocrats, defence and security experts, political scientists, political educators of high calibre,” Anamela highlighted.
He indicated that the UNIP leadership stopped self-greedy in leaders.
“It stopped leaders from looking after themselves at the expense of public service. So, you could not run a business and at the same time being a leader. If you wanted to go into business, you were allowed to go and do your business. That’s the way it worked! Meaning when the system changed in 1991… Most UNIP leaders did not build homes for themselves. Most UNIP leaders were relying on the State or the party for their transport,” explained Anamela.
“So, all of a sudden, there is no home, there is no transport, there is no income. Meanwhile, the political and economic order has changed; there is a separation between the State and the party. Then the MMD government also denied UNIP leaders their pensions! So, UNIP leaders became destitutes in one day – the country lost! Of course, some survived through their acumen and capacity but the reality is that the country lost the whole national leadership who saw things from a very different perspective. Then a group of people came in who did not want to be like those UNIP destitutes and so, they went for State coffers and parastatals. The plunder now started! Like that director who was at Zambia Privatisation Agency said, this was the biggest fraud in Africa sponsored by donors!”
Meanwhile, Anamela noted that Zambia needed a different kind of people who looked at public investments in a different way.
“This is what needs to be done now in this country. It takes time but we’ll get there,” said Anamela.