Some residents of the Copperbelt have heaped the blame on the massive wave of smuggling of Mealie meal into the Congo DR to failure by the leadership in the province to control the situation.
In random interviews in selected towns of Ndola, Chingola, Mufulira and Chililabombwe, the residents feared that Copperbelt might face mealie meal shortages if smuggling is not curtailed.
Evaristo Mbewe, 51, a resident of Chingola said he has never experienced the scale of smuggling of mealie meal than what is currently happening.
Mr Mbewe, a small scale miner said the Provincial Administration led by Minister Japhen Mwakalombe and Permanent Secretary Bright Nundwe have lamentably failed to control smuggling.
“I have lived here for more than 42 years. Yes, even under Kaunda we had smuggling but what I am seeing today is something I have never seen before. Bags of mealie meal are leaving this Province in the night and in the day using illegal paths on bicycles, wheelbarrows and trucks. The situation is totally out of control,” Mr Mbewe said.
And Mary Nondo of Ndola wondered why it had to take Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo to come and summon Millers on the Copperbelt over the smuggling issue.
“This goes to show that the people we have here on the Copperbelt are sleeping. Why does it have to take Mr Kampyongo to take steps to arrest the situation? Where was the P.S all this time when mealie meal was flying out of the Province?” she questioned.
Ms. Nondo further claimed that some leaders in the Patriotic Front on the Copperbelt could be benefitting from the smuggling cartels.
“They are failing to act before they are benefiting but is not fair but it is us the ordinary people suffering. The prices have gone up too much because of this same smuggling.”
Meanwhile, a youth of Mufulira has suggested that the Zambian government and their DRC counterpart should enter into a formalized government to government deal over mealie meal exports.
“We saw this happen when Bowman Lusambo was Minister for Copperbelt, he negotiated with the Ministry of Agriculture and the regional government in Katanga and Zambian millers started exporting legally into the Congo and that brought down the level of smuggling, we even saw then Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya touring Kasumbalesa in the company of Mr Lusambo to ensure that the exports were moving smoothly,” said Peter Chipulu.
He added, “without a formal export deal, we are afraid all the mealie meal here will be wiped out. Threats on Millers by Mr Kampyongo will not work.”
Chipulu also blamed the Provincial leadership for failing to protect the interest of the people of the Copperbelt.
“They are in those office but they are clueless on what needs to be done. Both the Minister and the P.S have just been watching this situation escalate, they cannot even do night patrols the way Bowman Lusambo and P.S Sikwela used to do. I remember in their efforts to control smuggling, Bowman Lusambo and his P.S were caught up in gun fire around 01: Hours at the boarder, that is the commitment we are looking for on this issue and not just sitting in those comfortable offices drinking coffee.”