Opinion

In Zambia’s Mealie Meal Crisis, a PF Stronghold Suffers the Worst

The Patrotic Front (PF) government had promised the people of Zambia a better life.

These bold promises, in fact, are the reason they find themselves in office today. They told the people that they would put “more money in their pocket” as well as provide social amenities such as affordable housing and good healthcare facilities.

During the campaign, Michael Sata said when the PF assumes leadership that there would be no shortage of goods, and that prices for Zambia’s basic food staples such as mealie meal would be significantly reduced.

This week my column will take a look at the underlying reasons behind the recent mealie meal crisis, but let us digress briefly by commenting that it is now more than one year after the PF defeated the MMD to start running government affairs.

However, there are no indicators that life would be better under the regime. What has been outstanding is that Zambians must actually brace themselves for more acute poverty, lack of development and all forms of hardships under Michael Sata’s own hand.

The PF leadership is blaming the MMD government for every failure they record, but they want to take all the accolades where things seem to be moving right.

For instance, they are blaming the MMD for the failed maize marketing season but they want to take all the credit for MMD projects such as the erection of the Mongu-Kalabo road and the USD 750 million euro bond, which were launched by Rupiah Banda. The PF want to claim that they have been in power for just a year and it is not possible for them to make development indicators. However, they are always boring the people with empty speeches each time they conclude MMD initiated programmes. One year is a very long programme for a government to give confidence and hope in the people that it would deliver on its promises.

Reverting to the matter to do with shortage mealie meal, it is somehow good that this problem has started biting from Copperbelt region, which is considered to be a PF stronghold. This author has stated here before that perhaps the people on the Copperbelt have their answer for voting for Michael Sata. They were warned that the PF group was an amalgamation of incompetent, corrupt and unfaithful people who will not be able to govern but they went ahead and voted for the party.

It is not that we are celebrating their misery, but life sometimes forces people to pass through certain experiences for them to learn valuable lessons. The people of the Copperbelt cannot remember the last time Michael Sata visited the region. It is the same with their Members of Parliament who have abandoned them for the luxuries of the capital city.

The people on the Copperbelt must take a critical analysis of the differences between how life was during the reign of the MMD and that of the current administration. The difference could be the same, if matters have not degenerated for the worse. The miners are still working under the same conditions on the Chinese firms. The children have continued to go the schools and the same conditions and the situation is similar in the health sector.

The people on the Copperbelt pushed for change of government. They opposed every programme that the MMD implemented in preference for the PF promised land of milk and honey.

The promised land of milk and honey has now turned out to be hell on earth. There is a critical shortage of the staple food on the Copperbelt and a regular 25 kilo grams bag of the commodity is fetching for over K80, 000 (USD16) from K40, 000 (USD8).

The situation is so desperate such that scores of Copperbelt residents are spending long hours on end queuing up for mealie meal at both retail and wholesale outlets. On Wednesday, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation beamed footage of Kitwe residents jostling for mealie meal at one of the outlets that stocked the commodity.

The scene evoked memories of the Kaunda era when Zambians queued for basic household commodities such sugar, bread, mealie meal, needles and razor blades. Those interviewed expressed deep rage with the government failure to provide food.

We sympathise with the people on the Copperbelt. We are aware that they cannot go for work on empty stomachs, let alone work with a peaceful mind when their families are starving back at home.

They must call for the resignation of Agriculture Minister Emmanuel Chenda since he has failed to perform. Chenda has continued to tell lies about paying of farmers for their maize supplies to the Food Reserve Agency. Over 3,000 Kalulushi farmers are still waiting for their payments from the government. There are many other such cases across the country.

But on top of that, Chenda is saying maize millers were fighting the government because they are not milling enough quantities of the mealie meal. Chenda says the millers are working with opposition political parties to make the PF government unpopular. He has also said there are people who are hiding maize from millers.

The minister is showing signs of a truncated mind. He is politicizing a very serious matter. Chenda is actually playing to the gallery and putting the people’s lives on the line.

Most of the millers in Zambia are PF members. These include the Defence Minister Geoffrey Mwamba and Goodward Mulubwa. Are these businessmen frustrating efforts of their own government? If there are people hiding maize from millers, why it that this government is failing to go to the rural areas and collect heaps of maize, which are being wasted?

It is not true to assume that there is a shortage of maize in the country because many farmers across Zambia are stuck with the grain since there is no proper marketing system.

This government must not apportion blame to others. The shortage of mealie meal must be attributed to the government’s own failure to plan and implement development programmes. The people of Zambia are aware that many ministers in the PF government are failing to make independent decisions because they fear the wrath of Michael Sata. They are waiting for him to give them instructions on how to run government ministries and other departments.

Michael Sata and his government are hitting the panic button. He stormed the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) where operations were grinding to halt because of the mere shortage of water. The poor water reticulation system caused the whole lot of the republican President to abandon other critical assignments to go and chat with nurses at the country’s highest hospital. Michael Sata should have let the Minister of Health to resolve the water problem at UTH.

Recently, we had fuel shortage in Zambia. This problem has not been resolved. In Chipata, there are long queues for fuel. Perhaps Michael Sata must storm the Copperbelt and Chipata to resolve the problem of mealie meal and fuel respectively since he wants to overshadow his ministers.

Michael Sata knows very well that former president Kenneth Kaunda became unpopular because of similar shortages of mealie meal, fuel and other commodities. Of late, Michael Sata has been pretending to hold Kaunda in high esteem and claiming that Kaunda is his mentor. We will not be surprised if the history that checked Kaunda out of power repeats itself on Michael Sata. But in the case of the PF, let’s certainly hope that Zambians are forced to suffer for 27 years before they are thrown out.

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