Editor's Comment

Take action without delay

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

THAT a scam has been unearthed in which a syndicate of millers and traders are allegedly smuggling mealie meal into neighbouring countries is a serious source of concern and calls for immediate interventions before the country is plunged into a serious hunger crisis.
It is already bad enough that the country is dealing with hunger in some parts of the country due to the drought during the previous rainy season.
Many parts of the country, especially Southern Province, are currently surviving on relief food from Government due to hunger caused by droughts.
Most farmers in these areas experienced total crop failure leaving them vulnerable to hunger.
But Government has been working around the clock distributing not only relief food for people affected but stock feed for their livestock as well.
The hunger situation in some parts of the country obviously demands that the country guards its maize reserves jealously.
It is, therefore, unacceptable that some individuals, motivated by greed, are illegally smuggling maize, a situation that can easily plunge the country into a nationwide hunger crisis.
Maize, being the country’s staple food, needs to be kept within affordable levels to ensure food security at family level.
We cannot, therefore, sit idly by and watch a few greedy individuals hold the country to ransom by creating avoidable shortages of mealie mealie.
The price of mealie meal has skyrocketed suddenly leading to panic among members of the public.
For instance, a 25Kg bag of breakfast mealie meal is fetching as high as k150. This is way beyond the reach of many Zambians who live below the poverty datum line.
There is need for law enforcers to move in quickly and arrest the situation before it gets out of hand.
According to Minister of Home Affairs Steven Kampyongo, Government is aware of rampant smuggling activities taking place at border points and these include millers and traders working together in a syndicate.
“Some of you have opted to be so greedy, driven by excess profits, and you have chosen to go into smuggling, some of you are directly selling to people coming with dollars in briefcases.
“We know where you are stockpiling maize and mealie meal and transport you are using,” Mr Kampyongo said.
It is good that Government has intelligence on those involved in the illegal export of maize.
This makes it easy for law enforcers to close in on the perpetrators. In fact, Mr Kampyongo should have just announced actions taken against such individuals or companies without warning them.
It is also good that Government is investing in measures to seal and monitor the illegitimate routes used for the goods and products.
It is critical at this moment to seal and closely monitor porous border points to curb the illegality.
It is good that the Zambia Revenue Authority recently procured drone technology in its continued efforts to curb smuggling.
We, therefore, expect ZRA to be on top of things by using technology to detect and arrest the perpetrators, who must be made to understand that their acts are tantamount to sabotaging the economy.
By smuggling mealie meal out of the country, they are creating a shortage for the commodity thereby driving the price up.
Those involved in smuggling are obviously not concerned about the bigger picture of how their activities impact on the economy.
At the moment, Government has not allowed export of maize because it wants to ensure food security in the country.
Government is justified in its concerns, especially that it subsidises most of the maize grown in the country by small-scale farmers.
Every farming season, Government spends huge sums of money on subsidising farm inputs for farmers.
This is in an effort to ensure that the price of the staple food is maintained within reasonable limits and accessible by all.
It is, therefore, unfair for millers to deprive Zambians of the staple food by illegally selling it to other countries.
Before even the law catches up with those involved, we appeal to their conscience to consider the impact of their actions on the ordinary Zambians.
Whatever it takes, smuggling of maize must be halted, and now!

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