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ColumnsHitting The Nail

They should return the tractors

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All those rich buggers who benefitted from a K20 billion loan that government got from India in order to buy agricultural equipment for smallholder farmers should do the most honourable thing and it is to return the tractors.

The DPP government decided to saddle this country with a K20 billion loan expressly to equip smallholder farmers with agricultural equipment so that they do away with the back-breaking hoe.

Going through the list of individuals that government sold the tractors to on a cheap, it is clear that they are not smallholder farmers unless that word has changed meaning.

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In my world, smallholder means smallholder and it cannot be Mulli Brothers Limited.

To me, a smallholder farmer is found in Ntchenachena in Mzimba, Mkando in Mulanje or Kasiya in rural Lilongwe.

He is not found at Capital Hill in Lilongwe in the name of affluent civil servants or ministers such as Minister of Transport Francis Kasaila or Speaker of the National Assembly Richard Msowoya.

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Government had been silent on the matter despite persistent calls from the citizenry to explain the whereabouts of the 177 tractors and 144 maize shellers but, thanks to People’s Party parliamentarian for Rumphi East, Kamlepo Kalua, who demanded to know the truth, Minister of Agriculture Allan Chiyembekeza was forced to account to Malawian people.

The revelations are appalling to say the least. To make matters worse, the tractors were sold on a cheap at K5 million each when government bought them at K37 million each.

This is taking Malawians for fools who can be saddled with loans that benefit a few elite close to the powers that be.

These are people capable of getting a loan from any bank and they have the ability to repay at an interest. Those tractors should have gone to the rural farmers they were intended for. Better still, the tractors could have gone to clubs or cooperatives in the rural areas so that farmers could borrow them at a fee to till their gardens.

But DPP gave them on a cheap to rich people and let the poor ones repay the Indian loan on their behalf.

In case the DPP government does not know, it is incidences like these that cause chaos and insurrection in many countries.

This is injustice at its best. It is a clear proof, in case we needed one, that ours is an unfair society where the rich appropriate among themselves all the wealth that this country can acquire, leaving the poor in their wake to bear the full brunt.

There is one reason why our agriculture has not developed to feed all of us and export surplus produce abroad. It is because the majority of our farmers are still using the back-breaking hoe. They are very far away from mechanised agriculture.

Other modern productive methods of farming such as the use of irrigation are very far away from their minds.

By all accounts, the India loan was a progressive initiative and could have helped this farmer who feeds all of us but, as it happens all the time in Malawi, the rich hijacked it for themselves and the poor have been left with nothing but crumbs under the table.

But this country does not belong only to a cabal of few elite individuals who desire to have everything for themselves. It belongs to all of us. We cannot pay for a loan that only a few are benefitting from.

Kasaila, Msowoya and others should return the tractors or pay the book value for them.

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