Copperbelt Permanent Secretary Howard Sikwela has warned of an impending national food deficit if the prevailing maize and mealie meal smuggling to neighbouring countries is left unchecked.
And Chililabombwe Mayor Christabel Mulala has called for reinforcement of Police patrol vehicles in the district to effectively curb smuggling which is as a result of the porous nature of the vast border between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Speaking during a stakeholders meeting held at the Chililabombwe Municipal Council chamber, Rev Sikwela said the rampant smuggling being experienced is negatively affecting the country’s revenue base as the perpetrators of the vice were using undesignated routes.
Rev Sikwela said high ranking government offices among them the office of the Vice President and the Secretary to the Treasury have expressed concern regarding the prevailing high levels of smuggling in Chililabombwe hence the need for a lasting solution to the impasse.
He also expressed concern at the high number of mealie meal laden trucks entering the district on a daily basis as they surpassed the expected consumption levels of the population of Chililabombwe which is approximated at 92 000 people.
“As you can see, the rains have delayed hence the need not to take things for granted. Our national food security is threatened and the country is at a loss as no revenue is generated from the smuggled consignment owing to the use of undesignated routes,” he said.
Rev Sikwela called for concerted efforts among various stakeholders tasked with responsibilities to fight smuggling among them the district task force, the District Joint Operations Committee (DJOC), the relevant government leaders ranging from national and provincial to district levels as well as the traders based at Kasumbalesa Border Post.
Ms Mulala said smuggling had proved difficult to control as the perpetrators were highly networked and able to evade security forces hence the need to enhance patrols by providing more vehicles to ensure mobility.
The Mayor said the police only had one utility vehicle yet smugglers were using various undesignated entry points into the DRC such as the Kawama route, the closed Chintsenda border post as well as the Konkola township and Miteta routes.
Recently, the entourage of Copperbelt Minister Bowman Lusambo and Rev Sikwela were ambushed and pelted with assorted missiles by unknown people in Chililabombwe’s Kawama area as they conducted a night patrol to check on the levels of smuggling.
The situation was controlled as the government officials were accompanied by police officers who fired warning shots to scare their assailants.