COMMUNITY Development and Social Services Minister Kampamba Chewe says government is not using social cash transfer to gain political mileage ahead of next year’s general election.

And Chewe says different cooperating partners are working with government to help disperse funds to different districts under several programmes to boost service delivery.

Speaking on Radio Phoenix’s Let the People Talk programme, Tuesday, Chewe said President Edgar Lungu was the one gaining political mileage since he had risen the stakes by giving beneficiaries higher amounts of money.

“We are not taking political mileage, but maybe the people of Zambia would say, ‘yes, the Government of Zambia has done well’, we have cooperated well with our cooperating partners. Yes, indeed, it is political mileage for President Lungu and his team, they have done very well in terms of social protection and that nobody can take away from them. When MMD was in power do you know how much beneficiaries were getting? K35 (per month). We have been raising the stakes. A disabled (person) gets K360; ordinary, K180. Next year, we are increasing the stakes again to K220. Our policy clearly indicates we are a pro-poor government. Cooperating partners can only come and work with a government that is stable, cooperating partners can only come and work with a government that they have trust in,” Chewe said.

She said that government had a mandate to win an election, and that winning entailed fulfilling campaign promises by improving service delivery in the Social Cash Transfer (SCT) scheme.

“Government has a mandate to win an election that we should not dispel, and obviously, how does government win an election? It keeps its promises, works on the policies that it has pronounced and this is part of its social protection policy. So, if this is getting irritating to some sectors of society, then I think this is beyond the Patriotic Front government because that is its mandate,” Chewe said.

“As government, we endeavour to give service delivery and we did agree that our technical staff, we sit tomorrow to, obviously, move forward. I mean this is an exercise, this is something that the community, especially those on the horizontal case load are seeing for the first time. I think for me we need to do more sensitisation; we need to speak to our members of parliament and to those politicians that would want to take mileage. For example, I hear people say, ‘they (PF) are getting NRCs because they want to rig elections.’ The President has talked about not leaving anyone behind. We have been administering Social Cash Transfer for a long time, even in MMD time, there was Social Cash Transfer. It is only the PF that has managed to take (the SCT) across the country and do an increment.”

She insisted that the UPND had no right to accuse the PF of using the SCT programme to get NRCs and rig next year’s polls.

“Initially, some sectors of society had accused the Patriotic Front of giving out this Social Cash Transfer to buy NRCs. So, they had to come out strongly because these are members of parliament that are actually manning their constituency. This is a very big accusation and, obviously, who would be the front-line is the member of parliament in allowing the government to buy NRCs,” she said.

“So, that is why you see the members of the Patriotic Front will come out to dispel that and say that this is a noble cause. They have the right to speak about government policies and what government is doing. Even UPND has the right to speak about the goodwill of government. But it doesn’t have the right to tell lies that the government is giving out K1,600 to buy NRCs, so you do not expect members of parliament to keep quiet, they will obviously speak.”

And Chewe said different cooperating partners were working with government in the dispersing of funds to different districts.

“I want to put on record to say, when you say, ‘UNICEF has distanced itself,’ yes, UNICEF will distance itself because it has nothing to do with the emergency Social Cash Transfer being implemented in Lusaka. When I say we are working with cooperating partners like UNICEF you go to UNICEF and say, ‘the Ministry of Community Development says you are the ones giving the K1 600,’ obviously, UNICEF will say, ‘no, it is not true. We are not giving out K1 600, because in our agreement there is nowhere it is saying K1,600.’ The Copperbelt, mostly, is where UNICEF will handle the emergency Social Cash Transfer,” said Chewe.

“If you go to Livingstone and you say, ‘we are told you are giving out K400?’ UNICEF will say, ‘no! I am not aware.’ So, when you look at Lusaka District, Chilanga, Kafue, Livingstone, Kitwe, all those we are cooperating with…World Food Programme (WFP), when you look at Chipata, Chililabombwe, Chirundu, Kalalushi, Ndola, Mufulira, Kabwe, Nakonde, Solwezi, Chingola, Mansa, Mongu, those we are partnering with UNICEF. When you look at Luangwa is purely Child Fund. When you look at Chililabombwe, we are partnering with the Red Cross. Chisamba is Plan International. These cooperating partners have partnered with government in different portfolios in different districts. So, if you ask UNICEF about Lusaka, it doesn’t know.”