HUNGER in Southern Province is real, says PF central committee member Kebby Mbewe.
“We are calling on everybody to come on board across political divide, to work together, during this hunger situation. We have no food. There is nothing like opposition and ruling party. We just have to come together because what is before us is real hence requires concerted efforts,” he said.
“Hunger is real in Southern Province hence the need for the opposition and ruling party to learn to sit together on the same table to find a solution on how we are going to feed the people. Let us not bring politics in this situation. This is the time we want to see leaders that stand for the people. This is not the time when someone must incite citizens to rise against President Lungu or the PF because this is a natural calamity not brought by PF.”
Mbewe, in a statement yesterday, accused provincial minister Edify Hamukale of not serving the people but instead being on a mission to destroy them and the ruling PF.
“We will not allow Edify Hamukale to take Southern Province in his pocket by denting the image of the PF party and President Edgar Lungu in his quest to protect his job at the expense of the impoverished vendors he is mistreating by chasing them around in the streets of Choma as if they are not his brothers and sisters,” he said.
Mbewe said his heart bled to see the way Hamukale was using his position as minister to mistreat people of Southern Province particularly those in Choma.
“The hunger situation in Southern Province is very real and yes we all know that street vending is illegal in Zambia but as leaders we should strike a balance between the law and people because rules are made for the people. Without the people, you cannot make rules,” he said.
“We have a drought situation in Southern Province that has caused serious hunger and water shortage. And seeing someone harassing the poor people who are trying to put food on their tables is very painful. The minister is supposed to be protecting the poor people. I’m sure even when the President and the SG [secretary general Davies Mwila] hears this they will be heart broken.”
Mbewe advised Hamukale to remember that “when his time comes to leave office he will need his same brothers and sisters from Southern Province he was chasing around to comfort him.”
“Where is he going to go and get comfort from when he will be out of office? These people he is chasing around and fighting are the same ones who are going to be with him in society,” he said. “He is not going to be a minister forever. He will go back and talk to the same people when he is out of that office. So he should not destroy our party in Southern Province, we know he doesn’t like PF. Let him resign because we do not want him to destroy our party in the province. Let him step aside and write a letter of resignation because he has failed to run the province.”
Mbewe said PF was a national party which even if it did not win any seat in Southern Province in the last general elections, had members in the region.
He said there was no need not to punish people in the area.
“The man [Hamukale] has never read the PF manifesto, no wonder he is acting irresponsibly because true PF acts responsibly,” Mbewe said. “We disown him as PF in Southern Province. I have never seen a minister who behaves in a manner where you become a council police. So what we are saying is that can we strike a balance between the local authority and the vendors because there is no food? We want our people to put food on the table even in their struggling ways because of lack of rains that we experienced. Can we allow the people of Choma to put food on the table? Can we allow people of Livingstone to put food on the table…”
He said Hamukale’s actions were hurting many people.
“Those people he is confiscating things from, if they were his children would he do the same thing? I’m sure he wouldn’t do the same thing because he is able to buy a bag of mealie meal and he should not think that everybody in Choma and the entire Southern Province especially now when there is hunger caused by drought they can manage to buy a bag of mealie-meal,” Mbewe said. “He shouldn’t think like that. Let him have a mind of a parent, a mind of a leader, a responsible person where the people of Southern Province are going to go and cry from. He should not turn himself an enemy of the people, no. You cannot have a minister who can today go to close a shop like Pep Stores because Pep is an international chain store that is helping to create jobs in this country. You can’t just wake up and close the shop of that nature. What he should understand is that by doing so we are losing revenue as a country that ZRA is supposed to collect and also the image of government is being dented by his actions where he just wakes up and closes the shop.”
Mbewe said Hamukale should allow the council to do its work.
“He is interfering by closing shops and chasing vendors in town in a van… That is not his responsibility but for the council. There is no way the … minister can start jumping in a van to start chasing the vendors. Let the council do their job and the minister should understand that this year is different from other years. This year we have got a lot of challenges in terms of food because of the poor rains we experienced. So Hamukale must be balancing up things by making sure that the people of Southern Province are protected.”
Mbewe said whereas street vending was illegal, Hamukale and other stakeholders should have sat to find a way out given the hunger situation in the province.
“Find a way to cushion the looming hunger. How we are going to help our people survive up to the next season because as PF-led government our duty is to put the face of the people first and not our jobs. But what Hamukale is doing is that he wants to protect his job at the expense of the impoverished vendors,” said Mbewe.
“What the man is doing is not representing the party or government but representing himself as an individual because the party and government does not agree with his behaviour.”
Last week, Hamukale closed a Pep Stores outlet in Choma for not stopping vendors trading in front of their shop.
He has since directed all street vendors to vacate the central business district in Choma ahead of the South Expo slated for September.