NAOMI MWIMBA , Chipata
PRESIDENT Lungu says Zambia should raise its maize bumper harvest bar to 10 million metric tonnes.
He has also challenged some commercial banks to explain why they have not activated electronic cards issued under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).
The President says instead of taking delight in the marginal bumper harvests, Zambia should raise the target and that this can be attained with improved management of the agriculture sector.
â€œIt is not good to be boasting about 2 million metric tonnes as a bumper harvest when we can do better by even producing 10 million metric tonnes as a country,â€ President Lungu said yesterday.
He said this when he paid a courtesy call on Paramount Chief Mpezeni of the Ngoni people at Ephendukeni palace in Chipata.
President Lungu said the country projects another good harvest this farming season if the farm input distribution programme is efficient and the prevailing rainfall pattern continues to the end of the season.
He said this is why he is on the ground to see what is happening in the agriculture sector in terms of farm input distribution and to assess the impact of armyworm attacks on maize crops.
President Lungu said his fact-finding mission will also assist him to find a solution for value addition for crops produced in the Eastern Province, which is renowned for groundnuts production.
Speaking earlier, Paramount Chief Mpezeni complained about the late distribution of farm inputs.
Paramount Chief Mpezeni said many farmers in Chipata have not yet received their fertiliser under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).
The traditional leader, however, said maize fields in his chiefdom have not been infested by armyworms and thanked President Lungu for coming to inspect other areas which have been ravaged by the pests.
In response, President Lungu said he expects people spearheading the e-voucher system to revert to the conventional one after noticing challenges in the new system.
Meanwhile, MAYENGO NYIRENDA and DARLINGTON MWENDABAI report that President Lungu has challenged some commercial banks to explain why they have not activated electronic cards issued under the FISP.
He has also said he will not hesitate to fire under-performing civil servants and Patriotic Front (PF) party members.
He said this when he addressed PF officials on arrival at Chipata airport yesterday.
â€œI am challenging some banks to explain why some e-voucher cards have not been activated by now. This programme is not working as expected, that is why the distribution of farm inputs is late,â€ he said.
President Lungu said he is on a fact-finding mission to ascertain distribution of farm inputs.
He said reports he has been receiving may not reflect a true picture about what is happening on the ground, so he decided to ascertain the situation personally.
And President Lungu has directed police to investigate the disappearance of 117 tonnes of relief maize.
In December last year, about 117 tonnes of relief maize meant for Mambwe district went missing between Lusaka and Chipata.
President Lungu also said time for politicking has gone and he will not entertain any party member who promotes disunity by sending him false reports about fellow party officials.
He said any party official or member who does not work risks being expelled from the ruling party.
President Lungu warned that infighting in the party or government will not be supported and anyone found wanting will be fired.
He said there are no factions in the ruling party hence the need for old party members to embrace people joining the party now.
President Lungu has also warned civil servants who are harassing people originating from the Southern Province to stop the bad practice.
President Lungu says he is President for all Zambians regardless of their political affiliations.
He said a negative trend is emerging in the ruling PF, where party members are harassing anyone with a Tonga name thinking they are members of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND).
â€œUnfortunately, this bad practice is also happening in our civil service, where anyone with a Tonga name is being harassed. I say, stop this immediately, because every Zambian is free to work from any province,â€ he said.
President Lungu said Zambia is one, and he was voted by all Zambians, so no-one should harass anyone based on tribe.
He said whether one is a Tonga, Bemba or Tumbuka, they should be allowed to work freely and contribute to the development of the nation.
He said it was the last time he was publicly talking about tribalism because it is now over 50 years since the country got independence and Zambians have learnt to co-exist.
President Lungu urged Zambians to work for the nation under the banner of â€˜One Zambia, One Nationâ€™.
The President visited selected fields affected by army worms and the Lundazi District Hospital project, where he stated his displeasure over the delay to complete construction.
NAOMI MWIMBA , Chipata