On Monday the 19th of October 2020, CISANET in collaboration with Welt Hunger Hilfe (WHH) and Save the Children hosted a dinner meeting with parliamentarians at the Bingu International Conference (BICC). The meeting aimed at sensitizing parliamentarians about the food and nutrition bill. In attendance were over 45 people including leaders of the parliamentary committee on agriculture, representatives of different CSOs, the Media and Justice Dr Redson Kapindu who was the main speaker at the event.
Speaking on behalf of CISANET, The CISANET national director Pamela Kuwali welcomed all the guest thanking them for honouring the invitation. The national director showed gratitude to the government for the progress made regarding the nutrition bill and for presenting the same to the cabinet for discussion. She further said CISANET and all its partners were excited to note that the president Dr Lazarus Chakwera had pledged to have the bill tabled in parliament soon. She was however quick to point out that some honourable member were new to the committee hence the need for the meeting.
Representing CSOs, Mr. Joseph Gausi gave a brief speech about the background of the food and nutrition bill. He made a call on behalf of CSOs to the parliamentary committee to do the right thing in tabling the bill to parliament and advocating for its enactment, he asked the committee to convince the government to take this bill up as it will affect the people directly. He then pledged the availability of CSOs to support the committee with regards of the bill.
Justice Dr Redson Kapindu, one of the drafters of the bill, finally took the podium to take the parliamentarians through the presentation of the food and nutrition bill. In his presentation, Justice Dr Kapindu gave a brief explanation of what a right based approach to access to adequate food and nutrition are. He cited that a right based approach puts the implementers at an obligation to actually implement the bill with no choice. He took the audience through some of the provisions of the drafted bill including section 4(4) of the bill which insures that the government is legally obligated to implement the nutrition policies and that those entitled to the rights are able to go to the duty bears and demand for their rights. At the end of his presentation, Dr Kapindu clarified that the right to nutrition does not mean the right to be fed, it rather means that the government provide the enabling environment for its citizens to adequately produce and feed themselves and their households.
After the presentation, Dr Kapindu took a round of questions from the parliamentarians. Some of the key questions were: whether or not there are provisions in the bill that gives dates when the bill will be operationalized, whether there are special resources available for the implementation of the bill, whether the bill cover herbal food products and finally whether a head of family who fails to provide for their household should be taken to court.
In response to the questions, Dr Kapindu said the bill gives discretion to the minister to appoint the dates when the bill will be operationalized, “it does not specifically stipulate when what will be done” he said. Tackling the issue of resource availability for implementation, Dr Kapindu said the implementation of social economic rights is within the capacity of the state and the implementation is progressive. On issues of herbal products, he said that the products and their healing claims should be authentic and scientifically proven before their advertisement and also issues of doses have to be properly regulated to avoid overdoses. Finally he pointed out that failing to provide for your children alone is not enough reason for prosecution, however if facts have been established that the parent willingly failed to provide for their children, then they may be prosecuted.
In closing Hon. Deus Gumba assured CISANET and its partners that the bill will be taken with a sense of urgency. He further said there is an assurance from the minister that the bill will be tabled in February and will possibly pass. He then requested for another meeting at a proper time when they are fresh so that more discussions would be further held.