A tobacco farmer has called on the Ministry of Health to distance itself from discussions surrounding the tobacco industry as they have proven to have little knowledge and no capacity to adequately deal with issues related to the industry.
Speaking during “Let the People Talk” radio program where he featured with Tobbaco Board of Zambia Board Member and Nkeyema MP Kapelwa Mbangweta, Chilufya Chishala who is also National Chairperson for Agriculture in the MMD said the Ministry of Health is just an arm of government which should not make decisions which borders on the country’s economy without adequate consultations with other stakeholders.
He observed that discussions on the tobacco industry without players would prove futile to the country as it is only the people involved who understand the repercussions to the country’s economy.
“They have been going to International conferences without inviting the people in the tobacco industry and the problems we are facing as a country is because we are not moving together. If for instance our colleagues in the ministry of health, they call and find out more in from us we can move together in uniform.
“Zimbabwe has accepted to move with the Framework Commission for Tobacco Control Treaty. Malawi they are moving together, only Zambia is not moving in that direction. We need to find out why only one arm of government because the ministry of health is only but one part of the arm of government.
“We have the Ministry of Commerce Trade and Industry, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Agriculture. Tobbaco is regulated by an Act of Parliament hence it’s a special crop. Zimbabwe despite the Economic challenges, they are going on, they have bought tobbaco worth 233 million kilos at average 3 dollars, they project will hit a billion. 40 percent of the GDP will be contributed from tobacco,” he said.
He further disclosed that during the MMD government exchange rate drastically reduced because of tobacco which he said brings in more forex than copper.
He said when the sale of Tobbaco commences the Dollar and other major foreign currencies reduces because the crop brings in more forex than any other crop grown in the country.
Meanwhile Nkeyema MP Kapelwa Mbangweta said instead of rushing to sign treaties which would harm the country’s economy in the long run, government should invest in research to deal with side effects of tobacco.
He said with research the production of tobacco would help the country attain the much talked about economic independence.
“If it was in the UNIP days or sometime back I would have accepted but in this era the country has opened up and we are educated but we are lacking the knowledge. Even in Marijuana we need the knowledge, even the tobacco we need the knowledge, even the mukula we need the knowledge.
“In our land we have a lot of things which are of value but we lack knowledge. We need to do a research and once somebody discovers that something and we see that it adds value it will help us economically as a country. Is it good that we are always borrowing? We want to be independent, we want economic independence. We have attained independence but we want economic independence,” he said.
And TBZ Board member Blessings Banda said the people driving FCTC agenda have not consulted all the stakeholders.
“The people with the FCTC agenda who did they consult? Did they look at the economic value of tobacco? There are institutions which depend on tobacco. Let me start with the Ministry of Finance which keeps the cofers of Zambia they are able to see what tobbaco can do in the country, you go to Bank of Zambia you are able to see what tobacco can do to the country. Eastern province has moved to the level of 13 banks. Lundazi alone has more than six banks operational, they were targeting the tobacco industry, when you take six banks in an area its development isn’t it? That is just a meagre thing but there are other major things.
“Then let’s look at the employment levels, Tobacco is able to employ over 1 million people in Zambia if we are to become serious but the people who have the agenda framework they never consulted the Ministry of Finance, they never consulted the Ministry of Labour, they never consulted the Ministry of Commerce, they never consulted the Ministry of Agriculture, if they had consulted these 4 wings of government I think they wouldn’t have taken the road they are taking, they should think twice,” he said.
Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization. The Framework intends for countries who sign the Treaty to stop the cultivation of Tobacco by 2030.