STATEMENT BY THE ZNFU PRESIDENT, MR. GUY ROBINSON, AT THE JOINT PRESS BRIEFING WITH THE MINISTER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT & HOUSING ON COUNCIL LEVIES – 6TH APRIL, 2008
The Minister of Local Government & Housing, Honourable Sylvia Masebo (MP)
Government Officials Present
Members of the Press
Distinguished Ladies & Gentlemen
The holding of a joint press conference between the Zambia National Farmers’ Union and the Ministry of Local Government & Housing is a very significant development. It is a testimony of the policy of our Union, that of working as strategic partners with Government and our policy of promoting dialogue as opposed to confrontation. It is also a testimony of the openness of the Ministry of Local Government & Housing, a characteristic that must be promoted in all Government Ministries.
Honourable Minister, Government exists to provide a regulatory framework and also facilitate growth of the industry, in our case, the agricultural industry. It follows therefore, that whatever steps Government takes, it must be in full consultation with the industry to avoid negative interventions. In this regard, we would like to confirm that the Maize Grain Levy was discussed with the Minister of Local Government & Housing on 28th March, 2008 in her office.
Initially, the Zambia National Farmers’ Union had objected to the uniform grain levy of K900/50kg bag because it was higher than some districts where our District Farmers’ Associations had negotiated a lower grain levy. For example, one district had a grain levy of K160/50kg while some districts were at K500/bag. The Zambia National Farmers’ Union has accepted the uniform grain levy of K900/50kg because when we met the Minister on 28th March, 2008, the following was agreed upon :-
i. The uniform grain levy will only apply to maize. Infact, we agreed that it shall be called that Maize Grain Levy. Most districts, which have a higher grain levy, are likely to benefit while a few will be disadvantaged.
ii. A joint Working Group will be set up to review all Council levies on all agricultural products and make recommendations on a uniform criteria to be applied by all councils.
iii. The District Farmers’ Associations will be allowed to attend all District Council Meetings to monitor the performance of Councils. We are infact announcing this to all the chairpersons of our 54 District Farmers’ Associations who we are meeting on 10th April, 2008 at Mulungushi International Conference Centre to discuss issues affecting agriculture which include Council Levies.
Finally, we wish to state that the Zambia National Farmers’ Union appreciates the fact that District Councils need to raise funds through Council Levies as one of the means. What we do not agree with, is for the Councils to make unilateral decisions on what the levies should be with no consideration of the impact on the viability of farming. They most often want to kill the chicken that lays the eggs. The joint Working Group, to review all Council Levies, is therefore very welcome and we thank the Minister for adopting it as one way of creating a common understanding between the agricultural industry and the Ministry of Local Government and Housing.
We also want to see transparency. Chibombo District Council, for example, has worked very well with farmers as all Council levies are channeled towards road rehabilitation with full involvement of farmers. The fact that District Farmers’ Associations will now be attending Council Meetings, may bring about the much desired transparency which has been missing in most District Councils.
I wish to end by once again thanking the Minister for involving us in the discussions and we hope that what we have agreed upon, as the way forward, shall be implemented without delay.