GOVERNMENT stands to lose more than K1.3 million from some Copperbelt marketeers who accessed the Presidential Empowerment Initiative fund and are now refusing to repay the loans.
Of the total figure, Ndola marketeers are owing K800,000 with Chisokone traders in Kitwe yet to pay K533,000 while K30,000 is stuck in Luanshya.
Some marketers are even turning violent against officials from the initiative whenever they pursue the traders to remind them of their obligations to repay what they owed.
A Ndola-based official was chased by the marketeers and warned that she risked being beaten if she ever showed up asking for the money.
“You see these people are supposed to repay the K2,000 in installments for 30 days without incurring interest. We’ve been lenient with these people and we go to them in a respectable manner,” an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
She said the initiative started facing problems with the recovery process in February in Kitwe before the trend spread to Ndola and Luanshya.
Judging by the unruly behavior of the marketeers, the official concluded that the traders could be influenced by opposition political party cadres.
Presidential Empowerment Initiative chief executive officer, Joseph Chilinda regretted the turn of events, saying such conduct would deprive other traders with the much-needed capital to better their livelihoods.
He said it was regrettable that people think the money being given out by the initiative was free because “you can’t eat the seeds which are supposed to be grown every season.”
Mr Chilinda said the empowerment programme had no political boundaries but all eligible citizens especially vulnerable traders in dire need for capital injection.
“Most of the people we are targeting are financially excluded and can’t participate in the financial sector. These people are not viable for any financial institution to work with because of the structure of the financial industry in Zambia,” he said in an interview in Ndola.
He appealed to all well-meaning Zambians to support the initiative and ensure the integrity of the revolving fund was sustained by paying back.
Mr Chilinda said the sense of responsibility in the beneficiaries needed to be inculcated.
The initiative chief executive said there had never been such kind of empowerment to the informal sector since Zambia’s independence in 1964 until President Lungu introduced it last year.
He also sensitised the marketeers to be on the look out for conmen masquerading as officers or agents of the initiative who were charging money as inducement to access loans.
Mr Chilinda said such characters needed to be reported to the police because the officers from the initiative do not ask for money upfront.
He cited an example of Petauke in Eastern Province where marketeers were swindled of the money by some crooks posing as representatives of the initiative.
However, the Petauke culprits were brought to book and prosecuted.