Malawi has finalised plans to handover the five-star hotel, conference centre and presidential villas to Sunbird Tourism Limited.
This is despite another investor, Peermont of South Africa, advertising to run the same facility about two months ago.
The adverts flighted by Peermont, under the Umodzi Hotel Limited banner, invited applications for all vacancies available at the hotel.
Secretary for Tourism Fletcher Zenengeya said the handover ceremony could have been done last week, but was moved to June 25 because his minister is currently in China.
“Yes, it is true that Peermont flighted adverts in the paper, but they did that in anticipation of being given the consent to run the facilities as we were supposed to host the AU [African Union] summit. Government decided that Sunbird should run the facility; hence, the decision to grant them the go ahead,” he stressed.
But a source close to the project said Peermont could not have been advertising if they had not been assured of getting the contract.
“We are not saying Sunbird cannot manage the facilities, but the way the transactions are being done, it seems there is too much politics. Sunbird has not yet signed contracts, signifying that they have been given the facilities and yet people are arranging for handovers. It does not work like that,” said the source.
However, Zenengeya defended the move, saying Sunbird will run the facilities for three months from May 28 to August when an evaluation would be done to determine how they have fared.
“Who knows, Peermont would be considered to run the facility then, but as I have already said, the decision to give the facilities to Sunbird came directly from Cabinet. Sunbird will be operating under Umodzi Holdings, a company formed to warehouse assets and act as supervisors of whoever is running the facility on behalf of government,” said Zenengeya.
According to Zenengeya, Umodzi Holdings is headed by Patricia Liabuba as acting chief executive officer. Liabuba is also deputy director of tourism in the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture.