In the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary New 7th Edition, the word surprise is, among other things, explained as meaning “an event, piece of news etc that is unexpected or that happens suddenly…”
I was prompted to check the simple meaning of the word “surprise” when I read two stories about Vice-President Khumbo Kachali’s “invasion” of the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) premises in Mzuzu and at Kanengo in Lilongwe.
Honestly, I find the whole episode to be a roadshow designed to divert people’s attention from real issues such as the shortage of maize and the ever rising cost of living in the country.
I also find the so-called “surprise visits” or “fact-finding trips”, to say the least, to be a big insult to many poor Malawians who are spending nights at the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) depots hoping to get their share of the maize currently being rationed at 10 kilogrammes per person.
What is a surprise if the media and line ministers and their officials are taken along the VP’s entourage to NFRA? It is all a stage-managed affair.
In fact, personally, I am surprised that a whole VP is embarking on such ventures as checking the maize situation at NFRA. What is there to physically check when earlier this year we were given an assessment report of the grain reserves across the country done by donors led by the USaid.
That report revealed that almost 4 821 metric tons of maize was not in good condition out of which 2 910.96 metric tons was characterised as dust and chaff, 410.5 metric tons as having high aflatoxin levels and almost 1 500 metric tons was found to be no longer of use as it had been in silos for too long or has been too dry.
Many times I have a feeling that as a country we are not serious with our affairs. The other day I said that it is unfortunate that despite celebrating 48 years of political independence we are, as a country, still not economically independent. We still boast about going around with a begging bowl.
It is unfortunate that we seem to put politics at the forefront of everything.
Isn’t it ironic that a country which not so long ago boasted of back-to-back years of maize surpluses and was touted as fast becoming the region’s food/bread basket and an international model in food production is today importing maize from neighbouring Zambia?
This scenario begs several questions, including: Were the figures about maize surpluses realistic or cosmetic?
And on the rotten maize in the silos, who is responsible for treating the maize? Who is in charge of its safety and quality control?
These are some of the questions requiring honest answers and action if we are to move forward as a country. Surely, taxpayers deserve better usage of their money. I find that someone, somewhere in the maize storage chain did not do his or her job. Someone is also not telling the truth. But, time shall come when the truth shall be told.
It is a shame that today one can hardly find a bag of maize flour in the country’s supermarkets. It is also unfortunate that after spending hours on the maize queue, people can only be sold 10 kg.
Today, we are spending our rare and hard-earned foreign currency on importing maize. Really? When we had surpluses not long ago?
So, Right Honourable Vice-President and company, please spare us the roadshows and get down to work towards making the maize available.