THE Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) cartel yesterday crumbled after Richard Lisimba pulled out of the union presidential race, paving way for major reforms. This came at the start of voting after manoeuvres to have former ZNFU president Jervis Zimba disqualified from the race on grounds that he was constitutionally ineligible were dashed. Mr. Lisimba pulled out after councillors told him that Mr. Zimba was the right person to lead the union and clean the mess created by the cartel that attempted to hijack the union to protect people who had been implicated in a financial scandal in which about K50 million is believed to have been syphoned. Insiders told the Daily Nation yesterday that even after last week’s developments which pointed to an outright rejection by councillors, Mr. Lisimba allegedly attempted to de-campaign Mr. Zimba right in the midst of the election when some trustees had already been voted for with only the presidential elections remaining. The source said after realising that he was staring in the eyes of defeat, Mr. Lisimba pulled out of the race just before the first vote was cast to save himself from an embarrassing defeat, leaving Mr. Zimba unopposed for the presidency. “He openly campaigned for himself right up to the time voting was to commence. He said all the bad things against Mr. Zimba and gave his own reasons why Zimba should not be president but the councillors told him Mr. Zimba was the right person to takeover. ‘‘He also brought the issue of the constitution but councillors told him the constitution did not bar Mr. Zimba from contesting and it was then that he came to terms with the reality that he had been rejected and pulled out to save himself from an embarrassing defeat,’’ the source said. The informer explained that Mr. Lisimba blasted some ZNFU officials, accusing them of having deserted him ahead of yesterday’s elective congress.
The source said the election of Mr. Zimba would bring sanity to ZNFU as he had proved to be a man of integrity because he led the institution with transparency and accountability in his previous tenure. The source said Ashok Oza had also been brought back as a trustee after refusing to be re-elected as chairperson of the Agri-business Chamber last week ‘‘because he was a straight-forward man who the cartel wanted to abuse to propagate its evil plans’’. “Councillors know how Mr. Zimba worked and this is why they have brought him back and with him at the helm, we can safely say that sanity has come to ZNFU. The reason why Mr. Oza has been brought back as a trustee after refusing to be elected last week is because councillors want a credible board at ZNFU and not a proxy that would dance to some people’s tune. “There is jubilation at ZNFU because most of the people knew that they would not have survived the structural adjustment had Mr. Lisimba won the presidency because that was in the pipeline. These people were leading ZNFU through intimidation and threats and whoever was seen to be upright instantly became their enemy just like they had done to Ella Chembe,” the source said. The new ZNFU board comprises Mr. Zimba as president, Austin Sichinachizye as director for small -cale farmers while E. Spyron is director for large-scale farmers. Others are Dave Gordon as director for corporates, Doreen Mwanza as women farmers’ representative and Mirriam Mbazima as commodity director together with Fisho Mwale while Wayne Wiid is chairperson for agri-business. Ashok Oza and Keith Asherwood are trustees.