Agriculture in Zambia is a critical subject because it produces food for the people. The sector is also a source of income for thousands of farmers who secure a livelihood after selling their produce.
Zambians are not gullible. They are alert to matters that affect them both locally and internationally now than ever before. The people of Zambia are still alive to the lucrative promises Michael Sata and his amalgamation of corrupt and incompetent followers made while in the opposition.
In this discussion, we shall refer to this government as the PF government not as in Patrotic Front but Paya Farmer (kill the farmer). This is a new slogan that peasant farmers in Eastern Province have attached to Michael Sata’s regime for the failed agricultural programmes. The farmers argue that the PF government has put in place agricultural policies that are ‘killing them’.
Anyway, this is not the gist of this discussion. This piece is intended to discuss the PF government’s failure to pay farmers their dues for supplying maize to the Foot Reserve Agency (FRA).
Thousands of farmers who sold maize to the FRA have not been paid their money hitherto. This is despite the realization that the country has already gone into the new farming season. This is perturbing to all concerned because farmers will not be able to afford farming inputs for the new season or to afford other needs since their money is stuck in the FRA.
The PF government has taken to blatant lies that they have released money to the commercial banks for the farmers.
However, the farmers have been queuing up at the banks for nothing.
Vice President Guy Scott has been going round the country telling his government was paying farmers, but according to almost all of those I have interviewed, this is simply not true.
Recently, Guy Scott was at Chieftainess Nkomeshya’s Chakwela Makumbi traditional ceremony in Chongwe where he said money was available for farmers, but he said they could not access it because of “red tape” in the commercial banks.
Just like his boss, Michael Sata, who is not overburdened with any commitment to the truth, the aging agricultural magnate Guy Scott went to Choma and told the same lie to the farmers. He was in North Western Province, the Copperbelt and Western Provinces where he shamelessly told the same lie, again and again.
But in Kalulushi, scores of farmers protested at the government offices demanding payment for their supplies. In Chongwe, the farmers also complained about the non-payment for their maize.
The government regulates commercial banks. Why is the government allowing commercial banks to derail its programmes by refusing to pay farmers if the government had genuinely disbursed money for the crops? It is sad that commercial banks have preferred quiet diplomacy but it would have been fair to know whether the government funds were stuck in the banks.
Guy Scott has turned out to be a grave disappointment to those working in the agricultural sector. He is giving false hope to the farmers, even in front of television cameras. He does that before chiefs and other traditional leaders.
Many Zambians remember him for having failed to secure enough grain during the scorching drought that hit Zambia in the 1990s. Guy Scott instead sourced cheap yellow maize for Zambians. Up to now, the people of Zambia are not happy because Guy Scott fed them on yellow maize. Zambians attach a stigma to yellow maize because they perceive it to be a grain for livestock such as cows and swines.
Now that Guy Scott has the power to make things right in the agriculture sector, matters are degenerating from bad to worse. He opts to play politics over the people’s welfare. Instead of making things right, Gus Scott is busy attributing the non-payment of farmers’ dues to the MMD government, which left power over a year ago. Gus Scott must not just tell the people what the PF government will do for the farmers, but rather, he must show the people what his government is doing because the time for making promises is long gone. They must show the people tangible activities since experience has shown us that people cannot feed on promises or send their children to school using promises from the government.
If the people of Zambia are not careful, the prices of food, especially the staple grain maize will escalate like corruption in the PF government.
Already, the price of mealie-meal on the Copperbelt is selling for as much as K80, 000 (USD16) from K40, 000 (USD8).
Agriculture Minister Emmanuel Chenda was on Radio Phoenix on Tuesday morning complaining about the high mealie-meal prices on the Copperbelt. Many listeners found this to be senseless because this is the man who has the power to ensure fair prices of the commodity. If the minister, who earns a colossal salary can feel the pinch of the exorbitant mealie meal price, what about the common man in Chililabombwe who can hardly afford any income?
It is not that this article wants to celebrate the excruciating misery being experienced by the people on the Copperbelt, but the feeling must serve as a lesson because this is this region that had continued to overwhelmingly vote for the PF in the successive elections even amidst reminders that the PF would not care for them. The escalating price of mealie meal is their answer for voting for the PF.
Some musicians such as Dandy Crazy even went as far as composing the PF ‘Donchi Kubeba’ anthem, while miners de-campaigned the MMD government with frequent work boycotts. It is laughable now because Dandy Crazy is still on the streets where he is cheating bar owners out of their money after arranging fake musical performances while the miners have continued to work under the same perceived poor salaries and bad conditions of service.
The PF government must accept that they have no plan for agriculture development in Zambia. They are still implementing MMD programmes. They have tried in vain to re-arrange the farmer payment system, but it has resulted in total chaos and a pure show of dim-witism that characterizes the PF regime.
Therefore, the PF government must stop lying to the people of Zambia that they are a better government than the previous regime.
It is only time that will tell.