Chairperson for the Agricultural Committee of Parliament Sameer Suleman has appealed to President Lazarus Chakwera to spare the Minister of Agriculture and his Deputy in his impending cabinet reshuffle.
Making his contribution to the Minister’s statement on the progress made in the implementation of the Agricultural Input Programme (AIP), Suleman said while the others will have to undergo scrutiny as Chakwera assesses his cabinet, the Minister Lobin Lowe and his deputy Agnes Nkusankhoma should not face the chop.
In July 2020, the President announced the process of assessing the newly appointed Cabinet would involve having the members thereof give progress reports publicly in December, followed by their shortlisting and being publicly interviewed in January 2021.
State House has however justified the delay, arguing it wants to incorporate in the review process, the Public sector reforms performance contracts Cabinet members signed in November.
“The State President announced a postponement of the evaluation process to the first quarter of 2021
“The President would like to inform the public that recent developments, including a second wave of COVID-19 that has disrupted government operations and the unforeseen loss of two senior Cabinet members, have necessitated doing the Cabinet assessment more expeditiously than initially conceived.
“His Excellency the President has, therefore, decided to do the review internally, which is already underway, in consultation with the State Vice President Dr. Saulos Chilima," read the state house press release
Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Suleman who is also legislator for Blantyre south, hailed the two for their role in addressing the many challenges which rocked the t K160 billion ambitious project.
“Madam Speaker enawo aziwona okha (the others will have to face the music) but for the Minister together with the Deputy Minister sanagone.
“We do understand that the programme in its new year had some challenges and we do expect those challenges to happen; but we want to urge them to maintain the same speed so that this coming year should be more successful than this year
“We also welcome the idea that as a Committee we should sit down with the report because after our tours around Malawi, we have some recommendations to make to the Ministry” he observed
In his response, Lowe thanked the member for his compliments which he attributed to team-work at the Ministry.
“This is very encouraging; very encouraging, thank you so much. Blantyre south, agriculture Committee indeed it’s very encouraging honourable Chair that you commend the Ministry for engaging you at each and every stage of implementation. We’ll keep on doing that we can’t leave you.
“Retention of me and my deputy is in the hands of HE thank you” said Lowe
Breaking tradition, the Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Gotani who chairs deliberations in the house could not help but chip in with to the debate.
“I know the Speaker is not supposed to join debate, but because she also has a constituency, indeed its true you call the Minister of Agriculture at 2pm, he’ll answer, 2am he’ll answer so thank you very much honourable Minister”
On plans for his Ministry to engage local suppliers in fertilizer distribution, he indicated that they intend to take that direction.
“For a long time, as a nation we allowed our taxes to be used by foreigners. This season, we want to make sure that indigenous suppliers are empowered to use their expertise. So let me assure honourable member once the tender is out, we are encouraging indigenous businesses that’s where we are going”