Zambia demands cash from Mugabe

LUSAKA - Zambia’s President Michael Sata appears to have shifted the goal posts on President Robert Mugabe by demanding cash upfront for maize imports, despite his earlier promises to deliver the grain on credit.

Areas in the south of the country are struggling with the food crisis, and the State-controlled media reported this week that children in Lupane are failing to attend school because of hunger.

In a speech in May, Mugabe said that Sata had told him that 150 000 tonnes of maize valued at nearly $25 million would be delivered to Zimbabwe with no questions on payment asked as that issue was not a priority in the face of starvation.

But in Parliament, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development minister Joseph Made said Zambia was now demanding cash upfront, and so far Zimbabwe had only managed to import 14 000 tonnes of maize.

“Let me start by saying that the government is committed to importing 150 000 tonnes from Zambia. Of this, so far we have brought into the country 14 000 tonnes,” Made said.

Launching the Food and Nutrition Security Policy in Harare in May this year, Mugabe described the current food shortages as the worst in living memory, saying: “Farmers are all in tears in those areas because there is no food for the farmers themselves and no cash crop to rely on.”

He said Sata was a “great man” for agreeing to export the maize to Zimbabwe without insisting on immediate payment.

“When I was talking to him about what we had in mind about paying, he said ‘no, no, no’. He is a humorous man, as you know. He said ‘let’s have the food in the stomachs of our people first, and when we have the food in the stomachs, then we will talk about the price’, and I said ‘that is a great man, he shares our affliction’,” said Mugabe.

Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba was not immediately available for comment.

A commentator this week said that, though Sata may have made a huge political statement, his economic advisors behind the scenes might have warned him against political grandstanding at the expense of exercising financial prudence.

Economist John Robertson said Zambia might have changed its reasoning based on Zimbabwe’s track record in recent years of failing to honour its debts.

“It’s one of the consequences of failing to pay, so we are considered as a high risk. They don’t believe that we would keep our promise to pay — that’s why they need cash upfront. We have to restore our credibility as a country by becoming much more dependable payers,” said Robertson.

Zimbabwe has a $10 billion external debt that it is battling to settle.

Sata’s spokesperson George Chella said he was going to verify the details surrounding the issue, but several calls to him later went unanswered.

In Parliament, Made told lawmakers that Zimbabwe’s maize shortages were caused by sanctions imposed by Western countries.

He said one of the effects of the sanctions was that farmers were failing to get or pay for farming inputs.

But Zanu-PF’s outspoken Hurungwe MP Themba Mliswa also told Parliament that ministers should stop blaming everything that is going wrong on sanctions.

Mliswa added that the country’s food security is in a precarious state.

He accused the government of offering local farmers lower prices for their produce, but then paid more for imports.

“The government is paying $430 (a tonne) to import maize and that $430 is paid instantly. Our own farmers are being paid $380 and it is taking two years for them to get that money. It is a situation that the minister needs to address,” said Mliswa.

Some of the problems encountered by farmers emanated from the situation at grain parastatal the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), he said.

“They (farmers) are not prepared to grow food and sell to the GMB. For as long as GMB is not capacitated to pay the farmers, the aspect of food security will remain a problem. I say so because the government owes the GMB $44 million and that money is needed by the GMB to pay the farmers.”

The government had to come up with a “command” agricultural structure that would direct beneficiaries of its land resettlement programme to grow maize, he said.

Comments (13)

but Biti had a good plan, Mugabe shot it down

garwe - 28 October 2013

chakatanga ndichochakanjedza. wanaSata ndiwo wanonzi wakafunda they looked at the history of Zim first and they discovered kuti she is a bad debtor he was sweet talked and he replied by sweet talk and like l always words means nothing but action there we are today

taipei - 28 October 2013

to read Biti's good plan, click the link below:

wacpop - 28 October 2013

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The Truth - 28 October 2013

Zimbabwe is now importing maize from former white commercial farmers who have now resettled in Zambia. Use diamond money.

chipolopolo - 28 October 2013

Zambia yotipa chibage minda makaisepi? makurima mauswa.

Hazvie - 28 October 2013

ko angaite seiwo iye sata imi musina mari

k.piri - 28 October 2013

people like themba mliswa where have you been all along. Atleast you bring light on the situation rather than these old guys who just blame sanctions. they have farms they seized. What are they doing with those farms? nothing. Themba Mliswa has a point. pay your local farmers market related prices and instantly then you will see how maize will flock to the GMB. Also our Gvt should payup the debts at GMB rather than abusing the diamond money

joze - 28 October 2013

its a riches to rags case, from being a bread basket of Africa to a basket case of Africa. It is surprising

Gwenaz - 28 October 2013

this mliswa guy are the people who zimbabwe needs ,say the truth as it is we will never go wrong (surely we will build a strong zim with home grown solutions kana nyoka yapinda mumba hatinga rambe tichichema tichitadza kuronga kuti toiuraya sei kana kuti totiza sei)

tsotso - 28 October 2013

Sata,where the heck can a banana republic like Zim find $25 million,even with diamonds? Do you suppose we are done with looting? You aint seen nothing yet. Have mercy,Mr Sata,this is beyond us.

Stanley - 28 October 2013

Zimbabweans are only good at talking and holding seminars launching food and nutrition policies without the food what a JOKE

Ronald Ncube - 29 October 2013

i miss mdara biti

gorofa - 6 November 2013

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