By Shalala Oliver Sepiso
Despite the best efforts of Emmanuel Mwamba, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, Bowman Lusambo and many PF propagandists, President Hakainde Hichilema does not hold any shares in African Life Financial Services. Any prior interests were terminated in 2019 when he sold his shares for strategic reasons. When the PF government put so much pressure on the company and threatened its survival, the then opposition leader was forced to sell his shares. The transaction was completed in 2020 way before UPND came to power. Any references to HH being in AfLife are from around 2017 soon after Edgar Lungu became president of Zambia. Emmanuel Mwamba and others won’t show you the current shareholding of AfLife or the shareholders’ shareholders because they know that currently HH has no stake in the same.
For the avoidance of any doubt and to add to the verisimilitude of what I am saying, kindly find attached hereto the PACRA printouts showing the shareholding of AfLife and also of Menel, which is the entite accused to be owned by HH and to have shares in AfLife.
Secondly, there is an attempt to show as if AfLife is being propped to get business now because it is affiliated with UPND leaders. The truth is that AfLife has been doing business with the Zambian government and parastals since the MMD days including during the PF government days. AfLife has participated in public tenders in the past, before the UPND government came in office, and won. Emmanuel Mwamba, Bowman Lusambo and GBM, who were in government not so long ago, should know which tenders were awarded to Aflife even during the time of the previous regime. They also know that AfLife got these awards due to their technical competence, expertise and experience i.e. on merit. AfLife has always competed and won on merit and there is nothing amiss in the latest award. Why should anyone suddenly suggest AfLife is no longer winning tenders on merit now that they are being linked to the current government?
Even the current contract award and the specific tender, which has brought talking, started in the PF days. The Environmental Protection Fund (FPF), under the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development, first invited applications from suitably qualified institutions for the vacant position of Fund Manager in March 2020 when the Patriotic Front Party (the PF) was ruling the nation. AfLife participated then and was poised to be awarded until the invisible hands stopped the process. The second Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued last year and again AfLife participated and was the best bidder. Suffice to say that AfLife is the largest private pension fund manager in Zambia and them winning such a tender is a no-brainer. AfLife’s market share and market leadership position consists of both public and private sector clients procured over the past 30 years including during the era of the previous government of the Patriotic Front Party.
Kindly find attached hereto RFPs in 2020 and in 2020, and the current award notice.
These attacks on AfLife are not new: they has always been continued and unsubstantiated allegations stemming from around 2016. At one point there was talk of supposed ex-miners of KCM Pension Trust Fund Plc with an attempt to implicate AfLife and Saturnia Regna Pension Fund.
Aflife has its roots steeped in the operations of Anglo-American Corporation (Anglo) in Zambia, when in 1992 a division was created to manage the pensions of Anglo’s subsidiaries under a pooled fund called Saturnia Regna Pension Fund. With time the division became a subsidiary, ACCA Management Services Limited (AMSL) under the Financial Services division of Anglo. In furtherance of its business objectives AMSL grew its client base, first by admitting other non-Anglo companies into Saturnia and secondly by acquiring other clients independent of Saturnia (segregated funds). In 2000, as Anglo was preparing to exit Zambia, 50% of AMSL was sold to African Life Assurance of South Africa, through their Botswana subsidiary, Botswana Insurance Fund Managers (BIFM). The name was subsequently changed to Aflife. In 2004, Anglo exited Aflife and BIFM increased its stake to 70% while Menel Management Services (Menel), a consortium of local Zambians backed the senior management of Aflife and acquired a 30% stake. Due to changes in the Pension Scheme Regulation Act, which required pension fund service providers to be majority Zambian-owned, the local consortium increased its stake to 51% and BIFM diluted to 49%. BIFM is 100% owned by BIHL, which is listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange and is majority owned by the Sanlam Group, itself being the largest insurance and investment group in South Africa and is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. This means that Aflife is majority owned by Zambians and in addition to Saturnia, its client base cuts across all sectors of the Zambian economy and has established itself through the years as the leading fund manager with a significant share of the pension fund management market.
The two shareholders of Menel are Muna Hantuba and Valentine Chitalu. Hantuba is separate from Hakainde both as a legal and as a +natural person and is not in government to raise any conflict of interest. Those who attack Chitalu say he got companies after privatisation and abused his office. However, as shown above, the history of AfLife predates the privatisation era. Its evolution into the largest private pension fund manager in Zambia was not an overnight phenomenon, but a trajectory of calculated steps of building capacity, competence and relationships. The growth AfLife can’t be tied to any ruling party or any era. It has been cumulative in line with the growth in the Zambian economy.
AfLife has been operating in a highly regulated environment, and therefore a narrative of an organisation which operates outside the law or makes its own law cannot be sustained in such an environment. In a regulated environment governed by statutes it is very easy to have access to information so that the keen researcher and reporter can inform their readers based on facts and not hearsay. But our PF colleagues, who have all the reports by AfLife, deliberately want to mislead the masses even when they have the information. But if If Bowman and his friends have any doubts that during the PF days AfLife had public sector clients and has always won tenders on merit, let them do their homework.
Lastly, following the notice of the award, those who lost the bid and have issues can appeal. There is a standstill period of 10 days in which those who have an issue with the award can make representations to the Ministry of Mines as the awarding entity. The 10 days end this Friday. So rather than making emotional comments and playing to the gallery, these PF guys can utilise that platform and pass their issues to the bidders to complain. Otherwise what is happening now is a case of the outsiders crying more than the bereaved. Why are PF members more aggrieved than those who bid and lost? It doesn’t make sense unless those who lost the bid are sponsoring these complainants and the complainants are hired guns.