CHIEF Chanje of the Chewa people in Chipangali must be commended for smashing the fertiliser stealing syndicate that was hell-bent on disrupting the government’s agricultural programme.
This is what is expected of traditional leaders, that they do not just sit on their thrones at palaces but get to know what is going on in their chiefdoms.
They would be shocked at what they would learn is happening in their areas.
Chief Chanje has handed over an agriculture camp officer who was allegedly caught with 160 by 50 kilogramme stolen bags of fertiliser under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) to Mgubudu Police Post in Chipangali.
According to Chief Chanje, the camp officers at Mtambalala Camp had allegedly diverted a truck laden with fertiliser which was meant to be distributed to the cooperatives and started selling to unsuspecting farmers.
He said the detained suspect in connivance with other camp officers, caused an artificial crisis of fertiliser claiming that Government had not yet delivered the inputs.
Chief Chanje explained that unknowingly, the agriculture camp officer approached one of his village headman that he was selling cheap fertiliser who in turn alerted him.
We just hope that the theft in Chipangali is not being replicated in other rural areas where farmers are anxiously waiting for the farming inputs so that they could get down to work.
It is not fair that officers who are supposed to implement the government’s programmes of ensuring that farmers get all the inputs they need in time to guarantee a good harvest are in fact the ones derailing the agricultural drive.
The agriculture officers are supposed to be helping the government ensure that the rural farmers increase production to not only ensure food security but also end poverty.
This is pure economic sabotage on the part of the agriculture officers who instead of delivering the fertiiliser opted to start reselling it to unsuspecting farmers.
They did not even have the conscience to realise that the people they were selling the fertiliser to could least afford to incur the extra costs in buying something that they had already paid for.
For most farmers in rural areas, FISP is a lifeline for their very survival and it is unacceptable that there are individuals disrupting the programme.
It is quite obvious that the agriculture officer and his colleagues have been doing this for years, except that this time round, they have been caught red handed.
It is good that Chief Chanje did not just report about the suspected theft but actually took it upon himself to hand over the suspect to the police himself.
“He is behind bars at Mgubudu Police Post for stealing 160 bags of fertilisermeant for poor farmers,” said Chief Chanje.
We implore the police to delve deeper into this scam and establish how long it has been going on so that they put a stop to it.
Chief Chanje is right to call for stiffer punishment against the erring officers to deter would-be offenders, that it was unfortunate that those who were supposed to be in the forefront spearheading government projects were busy frustrating its efforts.
Police must therefore make a strong case and ensure that the suspects are prosecuted. They must learn that crime does not pay, especially stealing from the vulnerable.
They must be locked up.