Opinion: Things Fall Apart, Zambia Edition

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo put it quite bluntly, since the election of President Michael Sata and the Patriotic Front, Zambia is falling apart. The recent experience of food shortages, long queues for basic commodities, and an unresponsive government that is first and foremost concerned with seizing control of the economy brings back memories of life under Kenneth Kaunda’s one-party state (no wonder he is such a fan).

The outside world will continue to ignore our plight, so long as we keep exporting copper and pretend to hold elections, but the very backbone of our society may soon face serious challenges, as President Sata’s policies have wreaked havoc on Zambia’s agricultural sector – the #1 source of employment and basis for our food security.

Having recently traveled out to farming areas in several provinces both close and far from Lusaka, I can tell you that things look grim.

The outbreak of army worms in Zambia spells a dark future for every farmer. The farmers are not only worried about the loss of crops, but it is the eminent hunger the looms next year, which perturbs them.

The farmers predict hunger not because of army worms, but they are aware that their government is so inept to correct matters in the agriculture sector, based on the destruction that would be left out by the maggots.

Agriculture Minister Emmanuel Chenda hs become a common feature on the national broadcaster where he is visiting different regions that have been affected by the grazing worms.

Apart from visiting the affected farming blocks, Mr Chenda is not leaving anything qualitative statement to react to the outbreak of the army worms.

Recently, Mr Chenda and Chongwe Member of Parliament Sylvia Masebo visited selected farmers in Chongwe where the two made pronouncemnets that have depressed farmers.

Mr Chenda proposed unworkable measures for farmers to recover from their loss. He said they should not spray the farms, but rather, they should dig holes around their fields to avert the worms. He asssured the farmers that his government had resources to subsidise them with new inputs so that they could plant early maturing varieties of maize to replace the lost crop.

But one is wondering when new farming inputs would be delivered to farmers realising that this is the same government that has failed to deliver subsidised inputs to other farmers around the country.

The price of mealie meal has continued to escalate although the country has large volumes of maize in many districts. Now that it is clear that next year’s crop will be poor, Zambians must brace themselves for food shortages and high prices of essential commodities.

If the price of the staple food could be so high in the midst of a bumper harvest now then Zambians the situation is expected to worsen when the country experiences low productivity in the next harvest.

The outbreak of army worms in Zambia would be used by the Patrotic Front (PF) government as a scapegoat to shield themselves from the many inefficiencies that are prompted by their own failure to work.

Zambians were so expectant of this regime, but the rising prices of food and other essential commodities is irking the people who were promised a better life.

The PF government promised a better agricuulture sector to improve productivity and ultimately provide the people with food. From the time Michael Sata went to State House, the agriculture sector has been deteriorating because of inefficiency and bad policies. they have failed to mop up all the maize produced by farmers around the country. The few tonnes collected so far have left farmers with high indebtedness because the Food Reserve Agency is yet to pay them their dues.

Already, Mr Chenda is predicting poor yields in the next harvest. But he has forgotten that it is within his powers to make things right for farmers to escape poor productivity by providing them with inputs and other requirements for dealing with the army worms. The writing is on the wall that Michael Sata and his follwers will use the outbreak of army to the expected food shortages next year.

In the early 1990s, Zambia experienced a scorching drought, but the then MMD government made efforts to avert hunger and high food prices. It is surprising that the first year of the PF government in power has seen Zambians experiencing high food prices. This is despite the fact that the previous government left surplus food and an excess in national monetary reserves.

The people of Zambia are aware that the PF government is experimenting with power. They lack direction on how to handle leadership at levels of society. It has become evident that the individuals in the PF are merely after personal aggradisement at the expense of the greater society.

Corruption, greed, avarice, incompetence, opportunism and stretegic positining for personal gains is at the centre of the PF leadership. It is so sad that the PF is dividing the people of Zambia based on tribe and political affiliation.

For many years, Zambians have been preaching unity regardless of tribe and political affiliation. Nowadays, a Zambian does not need to be anything else to access public services.

In Zambia today, a Zambian does not need to be a Zambian in order to secure a scholarship for a child or to access such public services.

All one needs to prove is their membership and allegiance to the PF.

It is the same in the agriculture. Farming inputs are being distributed based on a farmer’s political affiliation. This is how matters have degenerated. But the reality is that the sector, which is critical to Zambian’s strenght in all areas of human endeavor, is experiencing a slow death.

The outbreak of army worms must be a litmus test for the PF’s reaction to disasters. From the foregoing, it is clear that they are inept and have nothing better for Zambians.

Therefore, the onus is on Michael Sata and his men and women to doing all that needs to be done in order to avert hunger and shortages of essential goods in months to come.

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