UPND president Hakainde Hichilema says Zambia needs visionary leadership that can think and plan ahead as well as distribute national resources equitably.

And Hichilema, who was speaking to Radio Mano in Kasama via a live phone interview, Sunday evening, says his party has drawn a plan for the agricultural sector in which Northern Province will be one of the major beneficiaries.

Hichilema said the UPND had a blueprint to roll out an unprecedented Farmer Support Programme that would expedite farming inputs to farmers, while ensuring that all payments were made for their produce in a timely manner.

“We are aware that the coronavirus has destroyed Zambia, but the UPND has an answer to that. The answer is visionary leadership, prudent management of our resources and also equity of distribution of our resources as well as to bring about social equity, sharing national resources equitably among our people and offering job opportunities to the youths, that’s our job. In the agricultural sector, we have a lot programmes to support our people in Northern Province and Zambia as a whole. There are so many things that we want to do different from our colleagues who are in government today. We are not fighting anybody, what we want to fight is poverty and nothing else. Our colleagues in government are saying the Zambian economy has gone down because of the coronavirus, that is not true. This country’s economy died a long time ago, way before coronavirus came,” Hichilema said.

“PF found the kwacha at K5 (per dollar) and before coronavirus came, it was K15. This means our traders who buy their goods in dollar are paying more money. Then, others are blaming the international market, well the international market is just like that, it’s up and down. The difference is about the leadership, the management, the vision. We need a visionary leadership in Zambia, a leadership that is able to visionalize events and reason properly. The international market is not the reason for our collapsing economy. Our economy has collapsed because of corruption. Look at our neighbours: Botswana, Tanzania; the Tanzanian economy is much better than our economy. The people in Tanzania do also export their diamonds just like we also export our copper. But their economy is doing so much better than our economy and this because there is visionary leadership in Tanzania and Botswana. So, that’s what UPND wants to do, to bring strong management and visionary leadership. I think it’s not correct to blame the international market and COVID-19 for the problems we are experiencing now.”

And when asked about his party’s plan for the agricultural sector, Hichilema said the UPND would introduce a Farmer Support Programme where farmers would be accessing their inputs faster.

“You must realize that HH is a farmer himself, this means that farming will be one of our priority sectors when we form government. Northern Province is blessed with good soil and vegetation. Some people when they come to Northern Province, all they see is water, grass and soil, but me, I see wealth in all of that. So, as UPND in government, we will focus on agriculture and take advantage of our God-given resources in Northern Province. We shall do that by firstly reducing the cost of agriculture; we shall reduce the price of fertilizer, seed and other farming inputs. PF is selling fertilizer at K18,000 per tonne, but as UPND, we shall reduce the price of fertilizer to K8,000 per tonne. The difference from that shall be passed over to the farmers so that we reduce the price of seed also,” Hichilema said.

“What else are we going to do? We are going to supply inputs on time; PF’s e-voucher has failed. Farmers don’t receive their fertilizer and inputs on time. So, as UPND, we shall introduce a programme called Farmer Support Programme. Under this programme, we will be distributing inputs on time because as a farmer, I understand that farming is time-bound. We will also make sure that our farmers get a good price for their products. FRA will also be funded adequately so that they buy goods from our farmers on time. And we shall also pay farmers on time so that they plan properly for the next season. We will also make sure that agro dealers are paid on time, transporters will also be paid on time so that they can keep their businesses going.”

Meanwhile, Hichilema said his party would also end the importation of fish from China by empowering locals in fish farming.

“We want to also bring fish farming in Northern Province because there is a lot of water there. We will stop importing fish under UPND. We are wasting so much money on buying fish from China when we can grow our own fish in Northern Province. But to do that, we shall empower our local farmers and make sure that we give them a good market for their fish just like we will do with maize and other crops. God has given us so many natural resources, but we are not using them,” said Hichilema.

The opposition leader also talked about his planned interventions to improve the country’s health and education sectors once elected as Zambia’s seventh Republican President next year.