Residents of Mpulungu have questioned the procedure being employed by the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) in selecting applicants for business loans to boost the fishing industry in the area.
The concerned residents have accused the commission of going against promises made on how the loans would be granted to citizens.
CEEC Director General, likandoMukumbuta, could not be reached for comment by press time as he was said to be locked up in a meeting whilst his mobile phone was off.
The complaints came after rumours that the commission had on Monday summoned five loan applicants from Mpulungu whose applications were said to have been approved out of the over 400 applicants.
Mpulungu District Loafers’ Association Secretary, Peter Sikazwe, said many applicants had been left with a lot of questions because the commission was allegedly going against its promises.
‘’We have information that only five people were called to Kasama and given acceptance letters after which they were told to develop business plans……but the procedure was that after the selection, a final list of those to be chosen was going to be stack at the notice board at the civic centre for transparency. So, why is there a sudden change?’’ Mr Sikazwe asked.
Mr Sikazwe wondered what type of citizens’ empowerment the commission was talking about if only five people could be picked out of over 400 applicants.
‘’There is a lot of unemployment around here, especially among the youths and women, and the soft loans could have helped the youths and boost the fishing industry in a way….Now if they pick just five, who is going to finish the KR 3 million?…Let us have some answers from the commission,’’ said Mr Sikazwe.
Sikazwe said the feelings of residents were that the ‘new CEEC’ would not be manipulated as was the case during the MMD government, saying the issue was serious and could make the PF government unpopular, especially among the youths and women.
And some of the beneficiaries spoken to said they were equally surprised by the ‘sudden secrecy’ by the commission, saying they only received phone calls to collect their acceptance letters in Kasama.
‘’It was a pleasant surprise! We were just called to Kasama and given the acceptance letters and we were told to engage people to develop our business plans even when the commission had promised to engage Business Plan Developers (BPDs) on behalf of citizens and they emphasized to keep this as confidential as possible. We also suspect that things are not well here, ‘’ said one beneficiary.
On March 13, 2013, CEEC Director General, Likando Mukumbuta, addressed Mpulungu residents where he explained that the commission had set aside KR 3million to give out as business loans to eligible citizens for investment in the fishing industry in Mpulungu.
‘’Zambia is among the top 20 countries in the world with abundant natural resources……but, sadly, our nation is also among the top 20 poorest countries in the world! So the government has said enough with the poverty, it’s time to empower the citizens,’’ Mukumbuta had stated.
He said the ‘new CEEC’ would strive to empower as many citizens as possible especially the youth, women and disabled.
‘’For Northern Province alone, we will give KR 3 million each for Mpulungu, Mungwi and Kasama to support citizens go into areas of fishing, groundnuts production and soya bean growing respectively….40 per cent of these monies will go to the youth, 30 per cent women, 20 per cent to support the disabled/physically challenged while the men will share the 10 per cent in each district,’’ Mr Mukumbuta said.
Mr Mukumbuta advised people to apply for the loans in line with the industrial clusters identified in each district.
He said the commission would only fund the districts for 2013 after which they would move to other districts the following year (2014).
By April, 15, 2013, the deadline for submission of applications, over 400 Mpulungu residents had pushed in their applications for the business loans.