Vice-President Inonge Wina says it is regrettable that journalists who must be protected by the Constitution and the State Police become endangered species during election campaigns.

And Wina says government-sponsored text messages being sent to members of the public relating to various awareness campaigns are not a waste of money as they are meant to allow citizens to appreciate the values enshrined in the country’s constitution.

Meanwhile the Vice-President has attributed the rise in the country’s annual inflation rate to the increasing cost of mealie-meal further calling for diversification in the agricultural sector.

Wina called on the Zambia police to put up mechanisms to enhance the protection of journalists especially during elections.

This was in response to a question by Kanchibiya member of parliament Dr Martin Malama on the safety of journalists in their line of duty.

“Mr Speaker, attacks on journalists are not only cowardice, these are simply men and women who are exercising their constitutional mandate as well as performing their duties as professionals to report on issues that they want to communicate to the general public. Mr Speaker, crimes against journalists have no place in a democratic society such as ours and should not be condoned by anyone. It seems journalists have become an endangered species, even globally we read about cases of journalists being attacked here and there but here in Zambia, such violence should not be tolerated at all and that’s why government remains committed to ensuring that journalists and other citizens are protected at all times,” Wina stated.

“The police should devise mechanisms to enhance the protection of journalists especially during the periods of elections because this is becoming a norm, where a journalist is sent to cover issues at a polling station and they are being attacked, Mr. Speaker; this should come to an end. Journalists are doing their work and should not be targets of violence, I thank you.”

Responding to UPND Mazabuka Central member of parliament Gary Nkombo who described the SMS campaigns as reckless expenditure and wondered where government was getting the money from, Vice-President Wina said it was a deliberate strategy targeted at the youths.

“Mr speaker, time has come for Zambians to value the values and principles of this country which are enshrined in their own constitution and those messages are meant exactly for that so that, especially our young people, that they receive these messages either on radio or television or SMSs so that these young people can learn something about the need to observe these values and principles enshrined in their constitution. So it is not a waste of money, it is a strategy by government to disseminate information to the general public and various media platforms are being used for this purpose,” she noted.

And responding to a question by Kasenengwa MP Sensio Banda during the vice presidents question and answer time, Friday, on what government was doing to address the rise in the annual inflation rate, the Veep called for the diversification of the agricultural sector to ease the burden on the maize crop and in turn reduce food inflation.

“The rise of inflation in the country, Mr Speaker, has been to a larger extent influenced by the high level of costs especially regarding maize which is the staple food of this country. The inflation has been on the rise for most of 2019 driven mainly by increased food and non food inflation. And by the first quarter of this year, inflation reached 8 percent and these developments reflect low supply of selected food items, particularly maize grain, as I have pointed out, which has led to the rise in the prices of mealie meal and feed stock Thereby putting upward pressure on food inflation. Further Mr Speaker, the depreciation of the exchange rate of the kwacha against major foreign currencies has also played a role in the rise of inflation particularly with regards to developments of non food inflation,” explained Wina.

“But in order to contain food inflation, the government has continued with efforts aimed at improving agricultural productivity, this is what we have been discussing in this house for a very long time, that agriculture productivity has to be enhanced. In addition, government will continue to promote crop diversification in the agricultural sector aimed at providing citizens with an array of food items. This measure is aimed at reducing the citizen’s dependence on maize as a staple food which in turn will contribute to moderating the prices of maize grain and its products. So Mr. Speaker, productivity, especially in the agricultural sector, should be the norm so that we can reduce inflation on the food items.”