Disputing the truth

Extraordinary events make news.

That is why the Zambian offer of 150,000 tonnes of maize to Zimbabwe made news in that country’s media.

The new Zimbabwe online newspaper published the story with a full account of the conversation between President Sata and President Mugabe.

It is extraordinary that a deal for US$25million maize was struck by two Heads of State over a phone conversation, more so that the terms of trade were clearly not an issue.

That is why we disagree with Deputy Minister of Commerce Miles Sampa when he suggests that we fabricated a story insinuating that Zambia was offering free maize to Zimbabwe.

We said no such thing.

Our story and subsequent follow ups were largely comments by opposition parties and civil society who have demanded for an audit to determine if what transpired in the donation of fuel, K50million to Botswana and the maize deal were within the laws of Zambia.

We therefore find the admonition against us rendered by Deputy Minister of Commerce Miles Sampa, totally misplaced and an attempt to divert attention from a serious matter of national importance.

Firstly, like the Zimbabwean press we also found it strange that US$25 million worth of maize could have been discussed in a casual manner that it was and the fact that no terms were established in the transaction.  It is common knowledge that Zambian maize is in great demand in the region because the traditionaly supplier, South Africa has directed its export of grain to the United States which has been hit by a drought for the last three years.  The South Africans are getting a better price than they would selling to Congo DRC and other neighbouring countries which are in need.

Therefore Zambian maize has a yawning market in the region and beyond and can fetch much needed foreign exchange, which will assist the country grow its agriculture potential.  That is why the agreement over the 150,000 metric tonnes which did not include any terms and conditions of sale appeared irregular as ordinarily the mandarins in government would have ensured that proper terms of purchase were struck to ensure maximum benefit for the country.

Mr. Sampa should understand that as a newspaper our interest is influenced by the plight that ordinary Zambians are suffering.  There are people in this country, southern province in particular who are subsisting on wild products because they have suffered catastrophic agri-failure, poor rains combined with an attack of army worms have ravaged the region, leaving many households without any food security.

These people need food aid and should naturally make the first call on national resources.  They should come first before any external consideration.

Above all the minister must realize that the issue of subsidies and their subsequent removal is integral to the anger that many Zambians feel seeing that subsidized maize is being exported on less than clear terms when they are being denied subsidized stocks.

This is the same argument that has risen over the removal of fuel subsidy.  It is common knowledge that there is no subsidy on fuel because Zambia has the highest oil prices in the region due to corrupt procurement practices and large taxes and levies which are now penalizing the ordinary consumer, who include poor and vulnerable consumers of goods and services.