Yesterday, we showed how government was playing double standards by blaming private millers and retailers for the escalating mealie meal prices when in fact, government itself owns a big milling company which is selling the commodity at an even more expensive price than other private millers in some instances. We have been waiting for those at the forefront of finger pointing to explain this, but there is silence.
That’s okay, because silence is also a very strong statement. Today, we wish to add our voice to the solar hammer mills debate. It is true that when the President went to China with the Zambia Cooperatives Federation, they promised us solar hammer mills, and we are told that they went ahead to procure about 2,000 of them with a US$200 million loan. We are told that these solar hammer mills have been installed in almost every constituency, and simple arithmetic tells us that if indeed that was done, then each of the 156 constituencies must have 12 solar hammer mills installed, as we speak.
This means the pressure to grind maize has been lifted from commercial millers, as communities can now afford to make their own mealie meal instead of buying. While commercial millers rely on Zesco, these solar hammer mills rely on the abundant sun, which is, in all fairness, a brilliant initiative by government. But unfortunately, we have not heard a lot of testimonies or success stories from these hammer mills wherever they were installed.
So again, we are saying to government: You have the Food Reserve Agency charged with the responsibility of reserving grain, as its name suggests, for a crisis like this. In fact, the Zambia Cooperatives Federation also buys maize. So why are you not channeling that maize to the solar hammer mills to subsidise the price of mealie meal? That was the intention, we were told, that these hammer mills would reduce the price of mealie meal. So if Zambia is food secure and we have enough maize for consumption, why are we blaming the millers for the high mealie meal prices when we have solar hammer mills in every community countrywide?
It is funny that government has even gone further to throw the blame on manufacturers, saying they are making too much livestock feed. Surely, should farmers slaughter all their animals in order to preserve food for humans? Is that what government is saying? Because if that is the reasoning, the next thing they will say is that those who consume Chibuku Shake Shake are drinking too much of the brew and it is affecting the mealie meal prices.
Look here Madam Inonge Wina, Honourable Dora Siliya, Michael Katambo and Stephen Kampyongo, if the real motivation for buying those solar hammer mills was to bring down the price of mealie meal, this is the time to demonstrate that. Those of you in government who have braved the shame, and have come out to talk about this hunger issue must not direct anger to private business people when the solution lies in your hands.
People are asking: where are the 2,000 hammer mills? Did they even come into the country? If yes, then what is their use if the price of mealie meal is going up? We want this government to account because it is the already heavily taxed Zambians who are paying back these loans to China. It’s not fair.
Look at the mealie meal stampede in Choma! How can a leader see that and say it was stage managed by the opposition? Are people still using their heads to think in this government? This is the cruel sense of humor that we are talking about. No sane leader can look at a desperate hungry person and say “you are acting”. Acting for who? For what?
We know that government doesn’t want to declare the hunger situation in Zambia a national crisis because it would be a serious indictment on the President and his party, but we have a very humble warning to make to the Patriotic Front. That stampede you saw in the Choma Shoprite video is coming to Lusaka soon, then it will extend to the Copperbelt. At that stage, you will realise that in fact, it was you who was stage-managing the hunger situation in Southern and Western provinces because you were reluctant to address it.
We remember that President Lungu recently said his government will only help those who cry the most, and if he doesn’t consider the starvation in Southern Province a loud enough cry, then he must remember that he is governing on borrowed power. Dr Kenneth Kaunda, for all he did in 27 years as President of Zambia, when he touched mealie meal, the people told him “your time is up comrade!”