Cross Border Traders at Kasumbalesa Border Post have expressed displeasure over governments’ directives to stop selling mealie meal at the border post.
They have accused government of making bad policy decisions which have created shortages of mealie meal at a time when the country has excess stocks of maize.
The traders told the Daily Nation that the PF government had become hostile to small business enterprises going against their campaign promises of empowering youths and women in businesses.
Joshua Chanda a mealie meal trader at the boarder said that it was strange that government was finding it difficult to normalize the mealie meal supply in the country by releasing maize to millers instead of stopping traders from selling the commodity to DRC.
Mr. Chanda said that it was profitable at the moment to sell mealie meal in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) than in Zambia.
He said that the 24 hour ultimatum would only create confusion and make the PF party and its leadership unpopular.
And Police on the Copperbelt Province have revealed that some senior Patriotic Front (PF) government officials are involved in the smuggling of Zambia’s staple food to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
According to Kitwe District Staff Officer Joseph Chitabo told the delegation from the Ministry of Home Affairs that some senior government officials were in the forefront in smuggling maize and mealie meal into the neighbouring DRC.
Mr. Chitabo said that police officers in the district were scared to act by arresting the culprits because they feared to lose their jobs.
He said that officers could not go ahead to make arrests on such people because they were too powerful as they were in the corridors of power and that any attempt to arrest or confront them would affect police officers’ jobs, adding that, “it is difficult for officers to get in the way of such individuals for fear of losing their jobs.”
According to police officials on the Copperbelt, Home Affairs Deputy Minister, Stephen Kampyongo was well aware of the development and knew the people involved in the smuggling of mealie meal to DRC.
“We are surprised that the government wants to behave or play I don’t know game when in fact the deputy minister of Home Affairs is aware about the culprits. These are powerful men in government and we cannot deal with them at the moment because they will fire us. They will suck as because some time back we were even warned that if we continue standing in their way we shall have ourselves to blame because our fingers will be burnt and officers complained over the threats,” said another senior officer who preferred not to be mentioned.
The office complained that there was too much intimidation from government officials who were involved in mealie meal smuggling and that had made the job of the police difficult to police the situation.
And the deputy minister assured police officers on the Copperbelt and Kitwe in particular of government’s protection saying that the PF leadership was determined to ensure that that the laws of the land were observed.
Mr. Kampyongo said that there were enough laws to protect them and that there were no sacred cows in the administration of the law.
He said that, “The situation is sad that some senior public officers are actively involved in participating in the smuggling of mealie-meal. This government shall take drastic disciplinary measures on such officers as no one was above the law.”
Mr. Kampyongo said that there was need for government to take stringent measures in addressing the illegalities taking place along the borders of the country, adding that it would not pay to watch crime being perpetuated.
And the PF government has given a 24 hour ultimatum to all mealie meal traders at Kasumbalesa boarder to remove the commodity from their depots at the boarder and sale it in Chililabombwe town at a government recommended price of K55.
Home Affairs deputy minister Alfrida Kansembe said that it was government’s position to ensure that mealie-meal traders at the boarders were conforming to the law.
But traders complained and described the move by government as unrealistic aimned at killing the spirit of self help.