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Smuggling of mealie meal into DRC rife

Despite the heavy presence of Zambia National Service officers in Chililabombwe mealie-meal is still being smuggled into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through the notorious bilanga area around kasumbalesa border with DRC. - PICTURE: NKWETO MFULA

NKWETO MFULA, Chingola
SMUGGLING of mealie meal has become a lucrative business for traders who are selling a 25kg bag of the commodity at K200 at the notorious Bilanga area at Kasumbalesa on Zambia’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The place has become synonymous with smuggling.
Within Zambia the mealie meal costs under K100 but it is sold at this black market at K200 to smugglers who resell it in the DRC at K400.
Despite the heavy presence of Zambia National Service (ZNS) officers deployed to curb the illegal trade, smuggling is still rife at Kasumbalesa border post.
The smugglers posing as consumers are eluding the ZNS officers stationed at Lubambe checkpoint on the Chililabombwe-Kasumbalesa road using bush paths.
A check at Kasumbalesa on Saturday found traders at Bilanga trading in mealie meal at an open market with a 25kg fetching K200.
“This is all about business. We cannot stop because we are trading and making a huge profit. We are buying at US$20 (K200) and we are selling in DRC at US$40 (K400). Sometimes we are selling it at US$50,” said Alice Ilunga who was on the DRC side of the border.
Several women were found at Lubambe checkpoint after they had their bags of mealie-meal confiscated by ZNS for failure to avail their respective national registration cards to authenticate their identities and show that they were buying for consumption.
A taxi driver caused commotion at the checkpoint after some bags of mealie meal were found in his vehicle but he sped off towards Kasumbalesa.
ZNS officers gave a chase using a Toyota Land Cruiser and apprehended him.
They found four bags of mealie meal in the taxi which they confiscated.
Meanwhile, transporters of various imported goods into DRC say they are reluctantly entering DRC because of political uncertainty.
“Our friends were attacked and some trucks were burnt,” said Innocence Mugwagwa, a Zimbabwean truck driver.
Violence rocked Lubumbashi and the capital, Kinshasa, as the international community battles to diffuse tension over demands that general elections be held.

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