THE Patriotic Front says is empowering marketeers across the country to sew up to one million face masks which will be distributed to citizens who cannot afford disposable masks.

And President Edgar Lungu has donated K150,000 through the Presidential Empowerment Initiative Fund towards the empowerment of female tailors in selected parts of the country to make protective masks against the spread of COVID-19.

But the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) has condemned the stance by the ruling party, saying PF is capitalising on the COVID-19 pandemic to campaign ahead of the 2021 general elections.

Yesterday, the Presidential Empowerment Initiative Fund team led by Fund Chairperson Clement Tembo donated the PF chitenge materials to female tailors in various markets in Lusaka to make face masks which the Fund would buy and in turn distribute to marketeers, bus and taxi drivers as well as commuters.

“We just want you appreciate you by allowing you to use COVID-19 to make an opportunity for yourselves. Look at this as a very challenging opportunity for you to create something for yourself. You can make face masks with your own material, but for us, we are giving you our own [party] material. This is because when you come to the market here, it doesn’t matter if you belong to UNIP, FDD or PF, no. in the market it’s one Zambia one nation,” said Tembo.

“We don’t you to buy any material, all we want from you is labour and we will pay you for that. I have cash here which I am going to give you so that every marketeers here can have a face mask. Once you finish these face masks then we will pay you in two to three days and between now and then, you can sew as many face masks as you can afford. Our target is to make 500,000 face masks, that’s why we are giving this tender to every tailor in the markets. Once the first 500,000 face masks are done, we will add another 500,000 more so that we can meet the demand.”

PF central committee member Paul Moonga said other political parties were welcome to distribute their own party chitenge for this cause because the fight against coronavirus was not political.

“They are welcome to do that, this issue is beyond politics. So anybody is free to use any other material and make face masks. This is not about politics, politics aside, we are one Zambia, one nation. So right now we are just encouraging our members of parliament to go into their Constituencies and distribute the chitenge to their people. They should not just go there when it’s time to vote, time to show leadership is now,” said Moonga.

But UPND Spokesperson Charles Kakoma said UPND would not distribute its chitenge for making protective masks because the party did not want to politicise the fight against coronavirus.

“The UPND does not wish to politicize the fight against the coronavirus. What basically PF are doing is to use the coronavirus to campaign. But this is no time for campaigning, this is the time to carefully tackle the coronavirus. Therefore, we would not think that it is necessary for the UPND to use its regalia to make face masks, that would be totally wrong. What we are doing is to do the correct thing and the correct thing is to assist the community with the basic things that they need,” said Kakoma.

“The first line of thought is to distribute face masks with tested material to use. But if need be, then people can use their own material but not party material, it’s not making sense. You actually offed some other people; for example me I am UPND and you give me a PF mask to use, I would refuse because it’s offensive to my conscience. So that can’t be an effective way of combating Covid-19,” said Kakoma.