Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya has defended her two-week vacation to the United States at the height of an outbreak of maize eating pests.
Ms Siliya said the criticism she received for taking her vacation when the country was battling the outbreak is unwarranted.
She told Journalists in Lusaka that Government has well laid out systems that ensure continuity even in the absence of a Minister.
Ms. Siliya said during her vacation, all Ministerial duties were ably handled by Livestock and Fisheries counterpart Mr Michael Katambo.
She reiterated that her absence did not create any vacuum at the Ministry of Agriculture.
“It is not like when the Minister is out then the Ministry ceases to exist. It is the Ministry of Agriculture and not the Ministry of Dora Siliya, I didn’t carry the whole Ministry with me on holiday,” she said.
Ms. Siliya added, “the Ministry has a Permanent Secretary and there also Directors there who can perform certain functions and if the appointing authority feels the need to appoint someone to act as the case was with Hon. Katambo, he will appoint so that government continues to function.”
The Agriculture Minister also rubbished accusations that she went to the U.S on holiday with a married man based in Namibia who is at the centre of marital dispute with his wife, daughter of Namibian President.
She said Zambians should desist from focusing on trivial issues and concentrate on addressing serious national issues.
“We are in the middle of a serious outbreak of pests eating our maize fields and people want to start discussing trivial issues? Let us get serious as Zambians,” she said.
Mrs Siliya has however assured that Zambia will remain food secure despite the outbreak of the army worms and the stalk borer which she said has only affected 10 percent of the country’s maize output.
Meanwhile, women from the opposition UPND have called on President Edgar Lungu to fire Ms. Siliya for what they called misconduct and for bringing embarrassment the nation.
UPND National Women’s Chairperson Namakau Kabwiku said it is irresponsible for Ms Siliya to go out playing with other people’s husbands when the country is facing the devastating effects of army worms.
Zambia is a Christian nation and as such we expect Dora Siliya to be exemplary as a leader in the way she conducts herself when in and out of the country. It is a shame for president Lungu who claims to be a Christian to keep quiet when his minister of agriculture is misbehaving abroad,” Mrs Kabwiku said.
She added, “We also feel that, this is the price the Patriotic Front(PF) is paying for allowing hijackers like Siliya, who never suffered for the PF, to take up serious appointments. Hijackers are creating confusion in the PF and you can see this through people like Siliya. If president Edgar Lungu is a Christian as he claims, let him show leadership by firing Dora Siliya with immediate effect.”
Meanwhile, Zambia Volunteers Network have charged that Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya should apologize to Zambians for insulting their intelligence by suggesting that her absence during the army worm crisis was not felt.
ZVN deputy executive director Gerald Chiluba said his organization is of the view that Ms Siliya should apologize to Zambians or go an indefinite leave if she feels that her services especially during a crisis are not required.
Mr Chiluba said Ms Siliya should realise that privileges comes with responsibility hence for her to say that there is no vacuum during her absence while the President lamented the lack of help from MPs was was an insult to the Zambians who pay her.
He challenged Ms Siliya to show Zambians what she has done in the ministry since her appointment to deserve a trip to Las Vegas.
“We have noted with great concern over the remarks made by Hon Siliya with regard to her absence during the past two weeks while the country faced a crisis in the Agriculture sector where she is in charge.
“Ms Siliya seems to think that she can freely enjoy our money while other people work for her. As Zambians we know that she’s entitled to an annual leave but that should come with responsibility, we are of the view that she can’t go on the leave while we are going through a difficult situation in the Agriculture sector as regards the army worm crisis.
“While the President was lamenting that MPs were not helping in the fight against army worms the Minister was busy enjoying with her lover in America,” he said.
He said Zambians are not foolish to demand for her presence during a crisis in her Ministry.
“Ms Siliya should not think that Zambians are foolish to call upon her to come and adequately deal with the crisis.
“She has lamentably failed to deliver agriculture inputs yet she decides to go for a holiday, she as failed to tell the nation on her involvement in the Zambia-Malawi maize saga when Zambians are buying a 25kg of mealie meal at k130. It is not correct for her to say there is no vacuum in government when she is the minister, this simply means she serves no purpose in government and she must continue to be on an indefinite leave.
“Ms Siliya should know that as her employers, Zambians expect her to work before she goes for a leave because a leave is meant to recuperate and return for work refreshed. Let the Minister show us the hard work she has done in the last three months that she deserves a trip to Las Vegas.
“Ms Siliya should with immediate effect retract her statement and apologise to the Zambian people for insulting their intelligence,” he said.