26 November, 2020
Among its aces, the Tonse Alliance had the Agriculture Input Programme (AIP). It was sold as the panacea to Malawi’s perennial hunger, as farmers would get fertilizers at a cheap price.
The UTM Party, before they entered into an alliance for the June 23 Fresh Presidential Election, was advocating the K4 995 price tag for a 50-kilogramme bag of fertiliser. On the other hand, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) was promising a universal subsidy, without announcing the price tag.
When the budget was presented, we were told 4.3 million farming households would benefit from the programme pegged at K160 billion from the K2 trillion national budget.
Now, the mess that is the AIP is out there for all to see. Pictures of villagers sleeping at selling points because of problems that go beyond our power to fathom are doing rounds all over. Basically, the villagers would rather sleep on shop verandahs than walk back home, a good distance then come back the following morning. It is most probable that when they sleep at the shop, they would not have dinner. It is most probable that they did not have lunch.
This is a slap in the face of the poor, who had the hope that they would get some fertiliser.
It is very difficult for one to understand why the network glitches are taking forever to rectify. Well, the Tonse Alliance team showed us that they have big brains where information and communications technology is concerned. We agreed to that when the aficionado discovered ghost users who manipulated the 2019 presidential elections results. All I am saying is, the network glitches song will not work because they have gurus who could have identified the cause the day before yesterday.
The line that is being propelled, usually, is that some Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cadets are the ones frustrating system, and it is getting tired. We can’t deny the fact that there may be some elements in the system pulling the other way, but then, isn’t that why President Lazarus Chakwera appointed Lobin Lowe as Minister of Agriculture? Should we say Lowe is sleeping on the job that he can’t push those under him to push those under them to get to the root of the problem? Or should we say it is the Homeland Security Minister Richard Chimwendo who has dozed off as this is a matter concrerning national IDs?
It is weird, incomprehensible, that Malawians used the same IDs to vote in the elections that put the politicians to power have developed problems that will need sacrifices to the gods to be sorted out.
While the network problems refuse to die, we have also heard of some outlets selling under-weight bags. This may be points to some of the people that benefit more from subsidies than the targeted farmers. These crooked suppliers are reaping big where they scarcely sowed.
That as it maybe, wham! Principal secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Erica Maganga drops another bombshell: 900 000 beneficiaries have to be scraped out of the system because some are dead, others were entered fraudulently. Get it right, 900 000 is no small figure. That makes me wonder, because it is not so long ago that the government indicated 4.3 million people were earmarked to benefit and to think that death and fraud gave us 600 000 ghost beneficiaries is disheartening.
It is a given fact that the subsidy programmes we run are just shams. It can’t be far from the truth that these subsidies are conduits through which the national coffers are plundered with no mercy at all. Can somebody bring a little bit of sanity?
As it is said, these subsidies are not the panacea to end Malawi’s hunger. Some of the beneficiaries are selling their bags. Others don’t know the proper husbandry practices.
Since we are talking about mindset change, I guess time our servant leaders showed us better ways of improving the country’s agriculture than bringing subsidies that are nothing but a sham.