Unpaid Serenje farmers get physical, damage DC’s vehicle

Irate farmers in Serenje district in Central Province have damaged the official vehicle for the District Commissioner, Charles Mwelwa in protest for the non-payment of the last season’s maize sold to Farmers Reserve Agency, (FRA).

Farmers in Serenje are owed K8.7 billion by the FRA.

Mr Mwelwa, who confirmed the incident to ZANIS today, said earlier in the morning as the driver was going to pick him, the irate farmers blocked him, and orederd him to get out of the vehicle.

Mr Mwelwa said the farmers split into groups with one group manning his vehicle while others went to surround Finance Bank as the rest went on blocking the main road.

He explained that later, the farmers damaged his vehicle, alleging that there was no response from the government as to when they would be paid their money.

The DC added that it was unfortunate that even some pupils who recently completed their Grade twelve also joined in the protest.

Mr Mwelwa further said he contacted FRA head office in Lusaka for feedback where he was told that the money had been deposited into Finance Bank, Serenje branch, but bank officials in Serenje denied receiving the money for the farmers.

Earlier before the incident, Mr Mwenya addressed the farmers and appealed to them to remain calm as they wait for the response from the government.

He also complained that he was disappointed with the reaction of FRA management for not coming to his rescue by speaking the truth and paying the farmers their money.

And speaking on behalf of other farmers, Saili Chita said for the past one week the farmers had been spending nights in Serenje waiting to be paid their money.

Mr Chita said Central Province Minister, Phillip Kosamu, was in Serenje on Saturday where he assured the farmers that they would all be paid, and that they were disappointed that nothing is coming forthwith.

Another farmer, Chibwana Mwanamfula, said the farmers have vowed not to disperse until they are paid their money.

Mrs Susan Chileshe, also a farmer, complained that there is corruption in the manner which farmers are paid, alleging that those that delivered their maize later were being paid first than those who sold their maize earlier.

She also said that the affected farmers will not be able to pay for the agricultural inputs under Farmer Support Input Program (FISP).

Efforts to get a comment from FRA Finance manager in Lusaka, a Mr Malamba, failed as his phone went unanswered.

Serenje Finance bank management has closed the bank in fear of the irate protesting farmers.

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