In 1997, Livingstone was not on the brink of collapse. Livingstone was dead. Thanks to the ineptitude of the MMD regime of Edith Nawakwi and Co., Zambia only had the Victoria falls to show for, with zero public investments and efforts having been made to try and shore up the face of tourism in Zambia, particularly in Livingstone.
We had run down Livingstone and the economy due to excessive nationalization of key sectors of the economy, while our situation was not helped with the advent of political corruption at the highest level of government.
With the economy never having recovered from the savagery of the oil crisis and crushing copper prices of the early 1970s and 1980s, our options had run out. We had a $6.916bn overhang of debt, with real per capita GDP having plummeted from around $1,450 in the 1970s to less than $900 by 1997; while inflation was running as high as 30%.
The country was under pressure from its multilateral partners, IMF and World Bank to reform the economy towards liberalization as a prerequisite for the much needed debt relief.
A key component of liberalizing the economy meant that government’s hand of command and control on loss making public entities needed to be loosed.
Over 250 government controlled entities were privatized, with the Mosi O Tunya International Hotel and Rainbow Lodge.
But as usual, Edith Nawakwi and her MMD colleagues were only interested in money; and the only question in their minds was: Who was prepared to pay the most money for the Two symbols of tourism in Livingstone at the time – the Mosi O Tunya Inters and the Rainbow Lodge.
Then enter one Hakainde Hichilema, a shrewed, meticulous, sharp negotiator from an internationally renowned professional services firm Coopers and Lybrand.
This guy changed the game, not just for Livingstone but for the whole country.
Hakainde Hichilema’s impeccable judgement on what constituted the BEST DEAL for Zambians is what is responsible for the $2bn tourism industry in Livingstone today, around 4% of Zambia’s GDP.
HH forewent present consumption on behalf of Zambians and rejected bids of more than $20m and settled for a bid of $6.5m but with that, he secured future investments of over $50m, creating thousands of jobs in the process.
The proof is in Livingstone today. This is why the PF regime have spent over $200m modernizing the airport in Livingstone, all in recognition of the exceptional work HH did back in 1997!
This is the kind of foresight Zambia needs right now – a leader whose judgement is so clear that he can see the future amidst the current economic turmoil.
No other NEGOTIATOR delivered better than HH did in Livingstone.