It is difficult to understand the insularity adopted by the Patriotic Front leadership against all opposing or divergent views.
Listening to PF Secretary General Wynter Kabimba a clear impression is created that the party knows it all and that the 2011 victory at the polls has given it authority to laud it over the people of Zambia.
Talk about judicial reforms and the shambles in the Judiciary and the Minister of Justice will disagree with the stance taken by the Law Association of Zambia on such matters as the legality of the Chief Justice’s tenure, he will justify the Public Order Act, and explain why Freedom of Information bill is still not before Parliament.
Talk about the constitution making process and he will disagree with political parties, stake holders, and even the Technical Committee that the PF itself appointed.
In essence the party knows it all and any divergent view is a mere distraction that must be dealt with contemptuously.
Sadly this stance has now been extended to more immediate issues concerning national food security.
The government which has launched maize buying has decided on a barter mechanism for small scale farmers to secure fertilizer. This , anachronistic and a throw back to the moneyless economy of the middle ages.
Somehow the government is totally impervious to the voice of the farmer intent on its own agenda.
For the avoidance of any ambiguity the ZNFU’s position on production subsidies particularly on the farmer input support program FISP reforms and proposed food reserve agency maize-for-fertilizer barter system has been consistent. They have rejected the removal of agriculture production subsidies and have qualified this by stating that production subsidies are applied the world over.
They have also indicated that the consecutive years of surplus maize production are mainly as a result of government input support.
Our worry is that a variation at this very last hour and taking into account the fact that many of the small peasant farmers, having suffered catastrophic crop failure as a result of rain deficit and attack by army worms, may not have the maize or indeed the money to pay for the new barter system.
Even if they had the maize, an outlay of 2 bags would take away from the domestic food security, a factor that has not been taken into account when structuring the new system.
Our appeal therefore is for the government to climb down from their pedestal and meet the farmers union to find a way in which the E-voucher system could be implemented to ensure the elimination of procurement, transportation, and other administrative costs that weighed heavily on the FISP programme.
In addition we hope the government can increase the fertilizer made available to farmers under the new support scheme to enable them attain an even higher yield.
There is no doubt that the region is facing a serious food deficit except for Zambia and Mozambique which enjoyed a relatively normal rain pattern.
We can only hope that the same will be the case this year, in which would mean that the peasants and all farmers must be encouraged with incentives such as fertilizer to produce enough for local consumption and for export.
The government should not experiment with food, because hungry people are angry people.