COPPERBELT Minister Japhen Mwakalombe, Zambia Police and the Ndola City Council (NCC) have unearthed a scam in which some unscrupulous people have been working with millers and buying mealie meal in bulk and smuggling to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The smuggling of mealie meal has led to an artificial shortage of the commodity and a hike in prices in Ndola and around the Copperbelt.
During the operation about 1000 bags of mealie meal were seized in bordering township Kawama with the aid of residents who became whistle blowers.
Hundreds of bags where found in tightly locked up stores and others hidden in homes, under beds, fridges and tall grass.
It was also discovered that most are smuggling the mealie meal using bicycles. A couple of bicycles were found in the shops with bags of mealie strapped around them in disguise.
The mealie was hidden in cement bags, chitenge wrappers and so on and forth.
At border Maria Chimona smugglers were also using bicycles with National Registration cards which belong to other people to smuggle the commodity into DRC.
Copperbelt Minister Mr Mwakalombe flanked by Copperbelt Police Commsioner Charity Katanga, NCC Town clerk Wisdom Bwalya , District Commsioner Anthony Katongo and other officials fumed at the situation.
When queried on the huge stocks of mealie meal being piled the smugglers claimed to be traders.
But when asked why their shops were locked tight when there is a demand for the commodity even around the area all remained mute.
And after asking why some bags where wrapped in disguise all traders claimed the bags were not theirs and did not know what the bags were doing in their shop.
Police henceforth picked up two smugglers and arrested them, the two have also been reported of terrorizing the community and using weapons such as guns.
And when further pushed for answers the traders revealed they sale the commodity at K500 and K600 in DRC.
Further, the Ndola City Council queried the shop owners as to how they were trading but yet have no trading permits or health certificates.
Health experts also said the mealie was being kept in unsafe ways that risk the product being contaminated as most places had people sleeping in the same room and even to top of the bags.
Mr Mwakalombe said the mealie meal shortage was an artificial one caused by such ‘selfish’ individuals.
Hon Mwakalombe said Government, NCC and Zambia police will not rest and will ensure all mazie found illegallg is retrieved and all millers who are culprits will be brought to book.
He clarified that Zambia signed mou with DRC to supply 600 tonnes of mealie meal a legal trade which would benefit all Zambians.