Leader of Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa has 'demanded' that the government must pay back the money that it has collected from farmers without giving them fertilizer under the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP).
"I am giving President [Lazarus] Chakwera and his government until Friday next week, January 27, 2023 to return the money to the concerned farmers. Should this not happen, I will have no choice other than seeking guidance on the way forward from legal and governance institutions, including the Malawi Law Society (MLS), Malawi Human Rights Commission, Malawi Legal Aid, and Office of Ombudsman, among others.
"The Tonse Alliance government must accept that it has failed Malawians than resorting to pure theft under the guise of AIP," the opposition leader has said this in a press statement issued on Thursday, January 19, 2023.
Nankhumwa, who also serves as the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Vice President (South), claims that he has reliable information that the Tonse Alliance government, through its agents, is currently going village by village collecting money for AIP fertilizer from farmers whilst promising to give them the fertilizer at a later date.
This is unprecedented in the history of fertilizer subsidy programme in this country, and it is just plain wrong, says Nankhumwa.
"Why should the government take money from poor farmers without giving them the commodity when the rains are already here, and they are already late in applying the fertilizer in their fields?
"This is very shocking and a wrong approach by President Lazarus Chakwera and his Tonse Alliance government. Already, the hunger situation among many households has reached alarming proportions.
"It is, therefore, abhorrent for the government to demand money upfront from poor farmers, amounting to K30, 000, and never give them the required commodity that they desperately need for crop production. For a long time, we have been told that the government is working to purge out middlemen from the AIP system. Why is the same government now behaving like the same middleman it wanted to remove?
"The government should have just come in the open to confirm what we already know - AIP has crashed this season, and apologize to Malawians because what is happening now is pure stealing from poor, helpless and innocent farmers," reads the statement.
He says the Minister of Agriculture, Sam Kawale, and Minister of Information, Gospel Kazako, have been providing updates assuring the nation and beneficiaries that all is well and there is no need to panic as the programme is progressing according to plans after addressing initial bottlenecks. But he wondered why the government is taking money from farmers with a promise to deliver the fertilizer later.
"That this season's Affordable Input Programme (AIP) has been jinxed with bigger problems is now a documented fact. No matter what the Minister of Agriculture, Sam Kawale and some of his cabinet colleagues say, the truth is that the AIP has collapsed and it is irredeemable," says Nankhumwa.
The opposition leader has also trashed claims by the Minister of Agriculture that his ministry is using mobile sales vehicles to distribute AIP fertilizer and that farmers should not crowd sales depots as they risk missing the mobile sales vehicles that would go right into villages, arguing "the truth of the matter is that the mobile trucks are either not there or they are too few to make any significant contribution".
"The other challenge has to do with the process of scanning National IDs of beneficiary farmers for them to redeem their inputs.
"Apart from network challenges, the gadgets used to scan the IDs are very few compared to the demand on the ground. For example, some districts have to with as few as 12 gadgets for the entire, which makes a mockery of the whole programme," reads the press statement.