Mr Hichilema says the mealie meal crisis is the complete responsibility of the Government for making no provisions to plan for this when they had the chance.
“When we talk about our colleagues in the PF running a chipantepante type of Government taking our people for granted and risking our lives for their own benefit, it’s not out of hatred but simply because we care for our fellow Zambians and see the suffering across the country because of a lack of serious planning to make the appropriate provisions available,” Mr Hichilema said in a statement.
“We started sounding warnings bells as early as July 2015 that the country risked facing severe mealie meal shortages due to massive exports they embarked on, but as usual their response was to ridicule us and claim we were criticising their lack of planning and vision simply because we were bitter,” he said.
He added, “Yet, because our party leadership as well as our senior party members come from an agricultural background we knew the hole the PF were driving us into and we have our plan now to make sure this never happens again.”
Mr Hichilema said at the time the PF had no shame in telling lies inside Parliament that the nation had a bumper harvest and that exports were good business for farmers, despite the rules of the house being very clear that this is a punishable offence to lie on oath.
“But, because the PF feel protected by the system inside the Parliament to look after them, they have had no qualms about breaking any such laws. We have been consistent and clear with our message that we needed to take our national food consumption requirement levels seriously before embarking of massive exports like they did,” he said.
The UPND leader stated that his party was also very clear that even if the nation had excess maize grain for exports, Zambia would earn more if the country did value addition by selling finished products such as actual mealie meal, feedstock, and other by-products than raw grain, thereby created jobs in the value chain and distribution process.
“We were very clear that the chaotic PF agriculture and economic policies would lead to higher costs of fertilisers and other input costs which had the impact of strangling productivity to dangerously low levels. Yet, despite this crisis staring us in the face, rather than putting their attention into finding a solution for the problem, the PF spend their time criticising us for telling the truth and trying to convince the country that there are sufficient stock levels to deal with the crisis which you only have to look around our starving population to see is untrue.”
He said even President Edgar Lungu and some of his ministers have now started to realise the extent of the crisis and were later publicly contradicting each other by claiming they needed to import, which would not have been necessary if there had been proper leadership and planning in the first place.
“The PF has always tried to blame all the economic and social problems our country faces on anyone else apart from themselves, when it is no one else apart from themselves and their lack of vision and leadership which is responsible for these problems. They refuse to admit any of their own mistakes or take advice from people with the experience necessary to turn our country around,” he said.
Mr Hichilema said with the favourable climatic conditions and unused arable vast land in various parts of the country, Zambia should be one of Africa’s leading producers of maize and other agriculture produce and that Zambians should never be hungry and queuing for mealie meal currently at very high prices when available.
“We need a government with strong leadership, vision and experience to fix our country’s agricultural and other economic sectors because we as Zambians can no longer afford the chaotic alternative.”