Vice-President Inonge Wina says the cultivation and use of cannabis in Zambia is still illegal and laws need to be changed before it can be made legal.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Wina says a strong storm and wind blew off some billboards which fell on the City Market shelter, causing damage to buses which were stationed near the area.

During parliamentary proceedings yesterday, Monze Central UPND member of parliament Jack Mwiimbu questioned why the pronouncement on the legalization of cannabis was made without passing through the floor of the House.

“Today, Mr Speaker, we woke up to a very pleasant surprise that the government has now made a very important pronouncement that we should be allowed to grow cannabis and test to see whether this cannabis is worth exporting and the government hasn’t even come to us to advise us whether as you grow, you can also taste the cannabis, they haven’t come. As far as we are concerned, these are rumors we are hearing. Matters of national importance, Mr Speaker, are supposed to be made on the floor of this House so that questions are raised to the Executive, they haven’t done that. Because when we get to our constituencies, people will be asking us whether now they can grow this high value crop, whether they can taste it, and they will also be asking us as to why government has decided to discriminate against Zambians by fixing the licensing fee at US $250,000! Which Zambian, ordinary Zambian here in this country, will be able to grow this high value crop at US $250,000? They have not come back to us! As far as we are concerned, what will happen, Mr Speaker, the drug barons will be the ones in charge in this country, growing the cannabis! We want to be told, our people will be waiting,” demanded Mwiimbu.

But in response, Vice-President Wina emphasized that the planting and growing of cannabis in the country remained illegal until all the modalities of legalization were decided upon by government.

“Mr Speaker, I do appreciate the honorable leader of the Opposition’s sentiments, but some of the sentiments I think are a bit misplaced in that, Mr Speaker, the issue of the government allowing for the cultivation of cannabis is an issue that was merely introduced and government is still addressing it and change the laws to allow for the cultivation of this plant. And a stakeholder grouping of ministries responsible will come up with some guidelines on how this exercise will be undertaken by government. And for now, the country should be aware that the pronouncement that his Excellency, the President made in Livingstone regarding the planting of this particular plant and the use of the plant, is still illegal until such a time that government has decided on the modalities of going about it,” Vice-President Wina said.

“On the issue of the CDF, Mr Speaker, even if we sit here for another 2 months, perhaps, I cannot guarantee that the CDF will be given because the Minister of Finance is still going through the budget processes and if money is available at the end of this exercise, perhaps, we will see the CDF funds released. And Mr Speaker, I do not think the rise of the House is related to the release of CDF. It’s very important for the members of parliament, especially those who come from areas where they have been prevalent of our people affected by hunger should go back to their constituencies to visit their people, to assess on the ground how the food distribution is being done and how the people are being affected by hunger and advise government accordingly on what measures to take to address the issue of hunger in some areas where it has been impossible sometimes for the implementing partners to reach. This is more important to me than honorable members of parliament wondering around Lusaka wanting to be in Lusaka instead of being in their constituencies.”

And in response to a question on the pledges that were made towards the rebuilding of City Market, Vice-President Wina said that pledges from mining companies were not fulfilled.

“A promise had been made to the Zambian people that the market will be reconstructed and this was on the basis of some pledges that government received from the mining companies. But after a while, we were informed that the mining companies were not coming on board so the pledges were not honored! As a result, we had to revert to the Treasury to seek funding for the reconstruction of the City Market and some of the monies that were raised at the time were used to start constructing a smaller market in front of Simon Mwewa Complex, which will house a number of marketeers, but not the desired number that was required for City Market. Mr Speaker, there was a very strong storm and winds that blew off the billboards and they then fell on the market. Mr Speaker, the House may be aware that the fire had gutted that market and this might have affected some of the steel structures that are found at that market and when the area experienced strong winds and storm, the billboards collapsed and collapsed on the market,” said Vice-President Wina.