Monday, April 07, 2008
By JERRY MUNTHALI
GOVERNMENT has introduced a standardised Maize Grain Levy to end numerous complaints by traders and farmers that some councils are imposing exorbitant charges. Minister of Local Government and Housing Sylvia Masebo announced this at a joint press briefing with the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) in Lusaka yesterday. The revised levy will be pegged at K900 for a 50-kilogrammes (kg) bag of maize and K450 for a 25-kg bag.
“I wish to inform you that my ministry has carefully considered the complaints and in consultation with the Zambia National Farmers Union and the Grain Traders Association have decided to standardise the maize grain levy and a Statutory Instrument (SI) has been issued,” Ms Masebo said.
She said the proposed maize levy by-law was gazetted and that it would apply to all councils throughout the country.
The minister said Government, the ZNFU and the Grain Traders Association of Zambia agreed to establish a working committee that would look into other charges and levies on agricultural products.
The committee would make recommendations to the ministry on how best adjustments to the charges and levies could be effected. The introduction of levies by the councils must not be viewed as punishment, she said.
“The council needs to introduce relevant by-laws in order to meet the statutory obligations such as the maintenance of roads and street lights.
It is important to appreciate that the councils have budgets within which they operate and the introduction of the fees, charges and levies are one such way to meet the budgets,” Ms Masebo said.
She encouraged farmers, traders and members of the public to attend full council meetings in their areas to update themselves on the day-to-day operations of the council.
She said people should contribute to the decisions of their councils through their councillors and members of Parliament.
She thanked the ZNFU and the Grain Traders Association of Zambia for their cooperation during the consultative meetings.
ZNFU president Guy Robinson said the development was testimony of the ZNFU’s policy of working as Government’s strategic partner.
He said Government existed to provide a regulatory framework that would facilitate the growth of the agricultural industry
Mr Robinson confirmed that the Maize Grain Levy was discussed with Ms Masebo on March 28, 2008.
ZNFU had initially objected to the K900 per 50 kg as a uniform grain levy because it was higher than some districts where District Farmers’ Associations negotiated a lower grain levy of K160 per 50 kg bag of maize.
But ZNFU later accepted the new standardised uniform grain levy because it would only apply to maize.
“We wish to state that ZNFU appreciates the fact that councils need to raise funds through 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,” Mr Robinson said.
And Ms Masebo called on telecommunication service providers to ensure that they place environmental friendly telecommunication masts.
She said she had a meeting with three service providers, Celtel, Zamtel and MTN over the telecommunication mast levy.
She was concerned that the companies had not be placing some of their telecommunication masts in places that were environmental friendly, citing the tour near the Victoria Falls in Livingstone which was covered by palm trees.
The minister said she would this Friday issue a gazette notice and a SI to bring into force the agreed figures to be charged by councils on the masts.
She said the charges on each mast for cities would be K4 million per annum, K4.5 million for municipalities and K5 million for districts.
And Ms Masebo is concerned about the high number of billboards particularly in Lusaka and the Copperbelt, which are defeating Government’s policy of keeping Zambia clean, green and healthy.
“Some of these billboards are a danger, a nuisance and an inconvenience to the general public.
These wrongly placed billboards contribute to the high number of accidents on our roads due to obstruction of visibility,” Ms Masebo said.
She has since directed all town clerks and council secretaries to remove all the billboards erected close to the roads and without the specified standards.