Eastern Province minister Makebi Zulu has thrown a huge challenge to Hakainde Hichilema, the UPND president, to disclose his connections with Afnat Resources, Zambezi Resources and Mwembeshi Resources, all registered in Bermuda.
It all started with a press briefing in Lusaka on Sunday where Mr Zulu, a lawyer by profession, disclosed that Mr Hichilema had received $14 million from the deal that saw Mwembeshi Resources obtaining a go ahead to mine in the Lower Zambezi National Park through its proposed Kangaluwi Copper Project. This is to be an open-cast copper mine that, if allowed to go ahead, would threaten the health of the Zambezi from downstream to its delta, more than 800 kilometres away on the Mozambican coast. The effect on wildlife in this national park is another factor that has got Zambians talking, wondering why those who authorized this deal did so against the advice of the Zambia Environmental Management Authority (ZEMA).
On October 14, after protracted legal battles, the Lusaka High Court ruled in favour of Mwembeshi Resources, a company in which Mr Hichilema has an interest. This is a company named in Paradise Papers, an investigative work of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that brought out details of offshore companies through which questionable deals are made by those in government and prominent citizens around the world. It is in that report that Mr Hichilema was named as having connections to Afnat Resources, Zambezi and Mwembeshi Resources.
When these issues were raised by Mr Zulu during his press briefing where he made mention of the fact that Mr Hichilema collected a huge amount of money for this deal, the opposition leader responded only casually using funny memes on his social media accounts to this serious accusation, without regard for the seriousness of the matter. After that, Mr Hichilema’s followers launched personal attacks on Mr Zulu, with some using inflammatory language instead of simply responding to issues raised. After this, on Tuesday, Mr Zulu, who seems not to be backing down on his challenge any time soon despite the attacks he is receiving from UPND cadres, asked Mr Hichilema to respond to his questions on his connections to Afnat Resources and Zambezi Resources.
“See, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, Your people have been flocking to my page and hailing expletives (which I don’t mind). While they are at it, I thought you could please confirm with them, your connection to Afnat Resources and Zambezi resources (which is the holding company for Mwembeshi Resources) as I have done…” Mr Zulu stated on his Facebook page. Like always, Mr Hichilema has gone under and has not uttered a word after this challenge. However, his cadres have maintained their verbal assault on Mr Zulu.
The simple question to ask is: how would Mr Zulu, a seasoned lawyer, stick to an issue if he knew it is not true? Would Mr Zulu continue to challenge Mr Hichilema to reveal his connections to Afnat, Zambezi and Mwembeshi Resources – the three companies which are all registered in Bermuda? Because he knows where he stands, Mr Zulu has insisted that Mr Hichilema should respond to his challenge.
“You see Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, I have been trying to administer information in smaller doses for ease of assimilation by your followers who are only responding by insults as they await your confirmation. I thought you may explain to them how the shell companies; Afnat, Zambezi resources, Mwembeshi Resources, among others, are connected and share the same address in Bermuda…and how that you are the ONLY ZAMBIAN CONNECTING LINK. In case you may not remember, the link below may refresh your memory… https://offshoreleaks.icij.org/nodes/80006265,” Mr Zulu posted again today on his Facebook page. A look at the ICIJ report shows that Zambezi Resources made several questionable offshore payments to beneficiaries in a manner typical of shell companies that only exist for illegal activities such as money laundering.
Instead of unleashing attack dogs on Mr Zulu, Mr Hichilema should just gather the courage and explain to Zambians about his connections on this matter that only requires clear and sober response. He should prove if Mr Zulu is lying by availing all the information that connects him to Afnat Resources, Zambezi Resources and Mwembeshi Resources.