Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya says procurement officials in all public institutions are the ones denying Zambians business because they prioritise foreign investment at the expense of indigenous businesses.

And Siliya says mealie meal prices have stabilized following government’s intervention.

Speaking when she featured on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, Siliya, who is also information and broadcasting minister, argued that the huge borrowing for the construction sector was not benefiting most Zambians as most of them were having difficulties even accessing 20 per cent sub-contracting works.

“It is procurement officials in all these institutions are the ones who deny Zambians business. The construction business is a one billion dollar business. If Zambians are not getting even the mere 20 per cent, then all that borrowing for investment in infrastructure would have made no Zambian rich and it will take away the liquidity from the economy. Zambians who head procurement departments have to take a chance on their own Zambians,” Siliya said.

And the Petauke PF member of parliament has claimed that mealie meal prices have stabilized following government’s intervention.

“We have seen some stability. And it is because government has intervened. In the declaration of a disaster, it’s not done from the street, it is done using the law. And the law provides that only the President of the Republic of Zambia will declare a situation, an area or a nation as a disaster,” Siliya said.

“That statement…to say the price of mealie meal has gone up because there is not enough food in the country is a wrong statement! There are two different things happening here and we need to be very clear. Because of the expected drought and people knowing that Southern Province is a massive producer, Eastern Province is a massive producer, Western Province is a massive producer, two things were happening. The private sector anticipated that there will be hunger in Malawi, Mozambique, Congo and in parts of Zambia. So, they went on the market, speculating and increased the buying price of a 50 kilogramme bag. It has been all speculation. If the situation changed and we needed support, [if] the people of Zambia needed support, we will say ‘we need support.’ We are just saying that as of now, there is enough food in the country and it being moved from where it’s plenty to where they are having less. If government felt that we are not able, why would we want our people to starve?”

On the extended hours of load shedding, Siliya said local businesses were suffering.

And when asked what the new electricity tariffs would be once Zesco starts importing power from South Africa’s Eskom, she said she wouldn’t know.

“I don’t know at what exact point the tariff will be if this power is imported. But I think that the (Energy) Minister (Matthew Nkhuwa) meant well when he said ‘would we rather have 15 hours of load shedding or would we pay a little bit more so that at least we can have somehow?’ I think these are cost saving issues and the Minister is trying very hard to say business is suffering. First, there is not enough liquidity already because of domestic debt, which the Minister of Finance was referring to and that he wants to address. Now, on top of that, we put load shedding, meaning that businesses suffer even more,” she said.

“The President is extremely alive to it (load shedding). It is why he bemoaned the fact that when he sometimes is on the road at night, he just sees darkness, meaning that there is no business going on. If you go to Northmead, Kalingalinga and other parts of Zambia, there are people who are innovative and doing all kinds of businesses [like] Internet businesses, salons, welding and these businesses are affecting the families truly at the pocket-level. And that is why the President and government are applying our minds to this problem and saying we need to do some things very quickly. One of them is the power importation that we cut in half the deficit from 690 to 300 megawatts if we import from South Africa. The discussions are still ongoing.”

Meanwhile, Siliya said despite others shunning the National Day of Prayer and Fasting held on October 18 each year, government was comforted by the fact that majority Zambians take Christianity as the number one value.

“It is not in our place as government to speak for those who decide to shun this day. Our role as government is to provide leadership. We can’t speak for those that want to shun the day, but what gives us comfort is that the majority of Zambians take Christianity as the number one national value,” said Siliya.