COMMUNITY Development and Social Welfare Minister Kampamba Mulenga Chewe says the K1,600 being given out is an initiative under a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) programme meant to cushion the informal sector from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Saturday, social media was awash with pictures of citizens in various localities lining up to get the K1,600 relief fund. Many people assumed that it was a PF initiative and that they were collecting NRCs from beneficiaries as part of a rigging scheme.

But in an interview, Mulenga said PF was not involved in the process.

“Look, we are going through the COVID-19 and our cooperating partners, at no time can compromise their integrity and connive with PF to get NRCs. Even if they get NRCs, what would they use them for? You and I best know that when it is voting, it is the individual on the NRC that will have to vote. So my question to you is that if they get those NRCs, what would they do with those NRCs? What benefit are those NRCs? Because if anybody can get NRCs and go and vote on that person’s behalf, it makes a lot of logic. You and I know that when it comes to voting, it is an individual that has to vote, and a vote is a secret,” Chewe said.

“It doesn’t make sense at all, how does UNICEF come in and connive with PF? It doesn’t even make sense like that. You and I know that we are going through this situation; bars are closed, people have lost their jobs, this is just to cushion and we made this pronouncement. So this is just to cushion some of our problems that are within our community.”

She said the fund was meant to benefit the informal sector, which had been worst hit by COVID-19.

“In fact, people that are already on social cash transfer, it is automatic but our cooperating partners and government went a step further to say ‘look it is easy for those that are already on the social cash transfer to receive the money’, our cooperating partners went a step further to say ‘can we involve the informal sector’, and these in the informal sector, these are people that working in restaurants, in bars and they were closed, these marketeers that had lost their jobs, or lost their merchandise during this pandemic,” she said.

“So we said let Ministry of Local Government ,because the markets fall under Ministry of Local Government, the informal sector falls under the Ministry of Labour; even when we flag off [these programmes] these are institutions that we are closely working with. So they are going into the communities with the help of their members of parliaments, their councillors to identify those that are worst struck. Of course we have had unscrupulous people trying to take advantage of the situation. So this is just to cushion some of the challenges just like the social cash transfer which has always been there.”

Mulenga said the opposition were trying to politicize the scheme by insinuating that PF was using the fund to hoodwink people.

“So I don’t know why people are making a fuss about it because it is the opposition, sometime back, that said social cash transfer does not exist, social cash transfer is a hoax. So, my question is do these people mean well? One moment they are saying give people social cash transfer to help them, one moment they are saying we are trying to get their NRCs , which one is it? There is so much inconsistency and it is shocking me,” said Mulenga.

“Zambia comes first before anything else, the people come first before a political party. So, even in the midst of trying to convince people to vote for whoever, we must put humanity first. Just because I am in a privileged position that money should not matter, it matters, you don’t know the lives that money is actually changing and touching. People are in need right now and what we need to do more than ever is to unite and see how we can help these people. People this time are going through a very difficult time.”