Information and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Chanda Kasolo has challenged UPND president Hakainde Hichilema to provide evidence that any people have died from the current hunger situation to merit declaring a national disaster.
And Kasolo says no one can declare hunger as a national disaster apart from the Head of State.
On Monday, Hichilema declared the hunger situation in Zambia a national disaster, urging President Lungu to emulate him in order to avoid unnecessary deaths as a result of starvation in some parts of the country.
But in an interview, Kasolo said government would only react to Hichilema’s calls if there was evidence that there had been loss of life.
“So, as far as we know, with all the security reports etc, nobody has died of hunger. So, the allegation by Mr Hichilema that people are dying of hunger, it will be nice for him to provide truth because, maybe, if that is done, then maybe, the government can say: ‘okay, we own up and do something’, but as far as the government is concerned, we have had no reports of anybody dying of hunger so that is our reaction as government,” Kasolo said, Tuesday.
He insisted that the hunger situation could not be termed as national disaster because it only affected some parts of the country.
“National disaster is a different issue from a localized disaster, and the localized disaster is what we are calling climate disaster because it is just climate that has caused this disasters, mainly in Southern Province and also Western Province and very minor area of Eastern Province. But the food situation is just that it is transportation only that is required; we have enough food in the northern parts of the country,” he said.
“I was there just last week in Muchinga (Province); there are tonnes and tonnes of maize! And that is being transferred to Lusaka and then from Lusaka by DMMU to various hot-spots where there is hunger, and within DMMU, we have been distributing food stuffs since March, continually.”
And Kasolo said no one could declare hunger as a national disaster apart from the Head of State.
“There is only one person or one position that can declare a disaster in the country; everyone else is just wasting his or her time because it is in the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) Act! If you read in there, it says only the Head of State can declare that because there are processes,” said Kasolo.
“There is a report that goes through various stages, including at one stage civil society, churches etc. They get involved and they look at it and they make a recommendation. Then the Cabinet Committee is the final one who makes a final recommendation to the President, then the President using that report as well as other security and intelligence reports, makes up his mind whether to declare a disaster or not. He has a full picture, not anecdotal evidence, where people because, maybe, an area where there are familiar with or maybe they come from there then the say it is a disaster.”