Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) Spokesperson Antonio Mwanza says it is immoral for government to start charging farmers k100 for climate change related insurance when people are already overwhelmed with so many taxes.

Mwanza says government must identify what the real cause of climate change in Zambia is and deal with it instead of taxing farmers to a point of pushing them into absolute poverty.

He told News Diggers! that government needed to start looking into ways of introducing alternative sources of energy to reduce over dependence on charcoal if climate change was to be combated because according to him, deforestation was the main reason for climate change in Zambia.

“We spend a lot of time talking about political issues like who is that, what has Kambwili said, what has Mutayachalo done…those petty issues but if you look at for instance I saw a story on News Diggers! where you are saying that Dora Siliya said government is proposing k100 as tax on the farmers towards what they call climate change and for me I find that move totally wrong and it is not aimed at helping our poor farmers because first of all, we have to look at the beneficiaries of FISP. The beneficiaries of FISP are peasant farmers, farmers who do not have the money to buy fertilizer in the first place or have the money to buy modern tools for production, farmers who are extremely poor and those are the farmers who need support from the government,” Mwanza said.

“It is immoral for a government which claims to be pro-poor to be taxing it’s citizens to a point of literally making them bleed with taxes and if you look at the taxation regime of the Patriotic Front, they were telling us lower taxes but look at the taxes that people are paying now. If you are going to get k100 from a poor farmer who is failing to even buy a bag of fertilizer then where are you pushing him? You are pushing him into absolute poverty. And they haven’t even told us how that k100 shall be used in terms of what specific activities shall be covered to tackle climate change and most importantly, they have not even recognized and appreciated what is the cause of climate change in this country.”

Mwanza observed that Zambia was among the top 10 countries in Africa with the highest levels of deforestation which he said was the reason for climate change.

“Zambia is an under developed country, there are no industries in this country and the number of vehicles in this country is very low so we can not say there is climate change which is as a result of massive industrialization going on because we have no industries in this country. And you can not say we have climate change as a result of vehicles because there are very few vehicles. The cause of climate change in this country is deforestation. Zambia is among countries with the highest levels of deforestation in Africa. Now, the question is why this massive deforestation? It’s because most of the Zambians do not have access to alternative sources of energy such hydro electricity and solar energy. Only 23 per cent of the country is actually connected to electricity in terms of hydro power and the rest is dependent on charcoal for their energy. So it is this mismatch that is causing the massive deforestation,” Mwanza said.

“Therefore, government’s focus must be on improving generation, transmission and distribution of electricity which is hydro, solar and thermal power and other alternative sources such as bio energy, that should be the focus not taxing the poor. Because even if you were to make our poor farmers pay k500 everyday, it will not combat climate change for as long as we don’t invest in alternative sources of energy. So the problem that we have is that we have a government that claims to be pro poor but it goes after the lives of the very pro-poor and milk them. Now look at what’s happening in terms of the tax regime, if you look at what’s happening to the 2016/17 budget, the poor workers who have to rely on pay slow to buy food will now have to rely on pay slow to buy even a duvet and those collectively pay more taxes to the treasury than all the conglomerates put together.”

And Mwanza charged that government was only interested in protecting the interests of those with money and not the poor Zambians.

“This a government that does not care about the poor people at all because if you talk about electricity tariffs for instance, for a poor tailor in Kalingalinga who can not afford to do business this government has imposed that 75 per cent without negotiation but for the conglomerates such as the mines, government has to negotiate and the mines have to agree with whatever tariffs they want to make. So can you say that this government is protecting the interest of the poor or it is just protecting the interest of the rich? It is protecting the interest of those with capital at the expense of the majority who don’t have capital,” said Mwanza.

“And this government must learn ways to earn money through production, investment in the production industry of the economy and they should also learn to save. The problem that we have with PF is that they just get money and spend it. They don’t know investing, all they know is spending even when they get Kaloba [a loan] all they do is spend. Go back and check where the Euro bond has gone, they said it will go to ZESCO but isn’t ZESCO saying it has no money today?”