PF Parliamentary Chief Whip Tutwa Ngulube says there is no need for government to declare a hunger crisis in Zambia because President Edgar Lungu is in control and doing everything to safeguard citizens.
And Ngulube says government should consider engaging the defence forces in the cultivation of maize through the creation of “State farms” in all the provinces in Zambia.
Meanwhile, Ngulube has asked Zesco Limited to begin to look at venturing into other sources of energy because Lake Kariba and the Kafue Gorge have failed Zambians.
Speaking when he featured on a Pan African radio programme, Sunday evening, Ngulube said government should not be in a hurry to scare people over the looming hunger crisis when the situation did not require any declaration of a hunger situation.
“I think there are levels when you can declare a hunger situation. We know that a hunger situation can be declared as a disaster depending on the statistics that have been achieved by a well-thought out research because government has the Department of Agriculture and other departments that work on statistics to do with social status. For example, the Department of Social Welfare in the provinces, the districts. If they say that the situation is not such that we can declare a hunger situation, then government is not going to be forced to declare a hunger situation. We also know that if the situation is so bad that government is forced to declare a hunger situation, the Ministry of Community Development will advise government. But now, we have a bit of consolation, we are comforted by the fact that we have two months to go before the start of the next farming season. So, if we are going to succeed in having good rains, there will be no need to declare a hunger situation, what will be the point in declaring a hunger situation just in name?” Ngulube asked.
“We want government to declare a hunger situation a disaster where government sees that there is really no hope for government to assist. But right now…we have seen the stabilization of the mealie meal prices in instances where they were going beyond the bar…So, all I can say is that the President is in charge, and he is doing what he can so that we put the people’s lives where they are supposed to be. Government should not just be in a hurry to scare people when in actual fact, the situation does not require government to declare a hunger situation. For me, I would rather government finds a solution than just declaring a hunger situation without finding a solution to the problem.”
He castigated members of the international community who had asked the government to declare a hunger crisis in Zambia just so they could bring charity to the country.
“We don’t appreciate the donor community giving advice to government in the media, I think it’s disrespectful. For us, as Zambians, we have had worse situations than this. In 1990, there was a big crisis such that government had to import yellow maize to cushion the situation. Government never declared the hunger situation a national disaster. We had a similar situation in 2007 and we have another problem this year. If you look at the cycle, it’s like every 12 years. So government cannot just start declaring a hunger situation because some donor community wants to donate. If they have money to donate, why not just give us? Zambia is not a beggar so that situation of dangling carrots and telling people ‘dance before I give you a coin’, it’s long gone and as a country, we can do better. There is no donor who can feed the whole country, so all these donors making noise should know that no donor can feed this country to its satisfactory levels,” Ngulube argued.
He also feared that declaring a hunger crisis in Zambia would “scare away investors”.
“You do not alarm the situation by saying there is a hunger crisis in Zambia. What we have is a climate problem. Yes, we have food shortages in certain areas, but I think our investors will be scared; they will run away from us because they will think there is actually a deep-rooted problem here. Of course, it’s a temporary situation, it’s a climate problem, but it is not enough to declare a hunger crisis,” he insisted.
And Ngulube suggested that government should establish state farms in all 10 provinces and work with defense forces to ensure Zambia was food secure at all times.
“I think it would be nice if government engaged the defense forces in the cultivation of maize. We should create State farms, at least one in each province or 10 farms in each province and also just dedicate a lot of support. I know the police used to have farms and the soldiers used to have State farms…these departments of government would be of assistance if they can all venture into the production of maize because then, we would have surplus. Some would export, others would be used to drop the prices of mealie meal. Right now, we don’t know how much the price of mealie meal will be by January, 2020,” Ngulube said.
He also tipped Zesco on the need to diversify its energy sources.
“We are challenging Zesco to begin to invest in solar energy so that we stop this idea of depending on hydroelectric power because both Lake Kariba and Kafue Gorge are failing us. So, let us also begin to invest in solar energy so that Zesco can be able to supply electricity even if there are low water levels in Kariba Dam. We have seen this in other countries, which don’t have dams like Kariba, and they are able to produce electricity. We can also do wind farms, so we are encouraging investors and Zambians, generally, to come and invest in this kind of business. Trust me, government alone cannot deliver electricity to people. We need investors, we need a lot of resources in order to do that kind of business,” said Ngulube.