The Zambian government has intensified its efforts to curb the smuggling of mealie meal, a staple food in the country, across its borders. The Copperbelt Province Minister, Hon Elisha Matambo, has been joined by heads of security wings in the province to assist in this crackdown. During their tour of Kasumbalesa, Mikambo, and Sakania borders, the security officials apprehended smugglers and impounded various vessels, trucks, and tools used in mealie meal smuggling. Hon Matambo has urged Copperbelt residents to join in the fight against mealie meal smuggling, which he says has become sophisticated.
To combat the problem, the government plans to employ aerial surveillance methods to monitor smuggling behavior, according to the ZAF Commander. The government is also revamping Solar Milling Plants in all provinces and ensuring that the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Green Economy are well-funded to improve crop production technology and diversification.
However, the recent crackdown on mealie meal smuggling on the Copperbelt Province in Zambia has been met with mixed reactions. While some have praised the government’s efforts to curb the illegal trade, others have expressed concerns over the root causes of the problem.
One of the most vocal critics of the government’s handling of the situation is Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba. In a statement, Mwamba called for more decisive action to address the issue. “Government caused the insecurity, the Defence and Security Forces should just march to Mulungushi House and arrest the culprits,” he said.
Mwamba went on to explain that the government’s decision to export almost all of its maize stocks, including the national strategic food reserves, has left the country vulnerable to food shortages. “The bumper harvest of 2020/2021 was a historical record of 3.6 million metric tonnes followed by Zambia’s third-largest maize crop of 3.4 million tonnes produced in the 2021/2022 season. Zambia’s annual consumption is about 2.4 million metric tons, and therefore the country had 1.5 million tonnes of surplus maize available for exports in the 2021/22 period,” he said.
According to Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Mutolo Phiri, the country only has 342,000 metric tonnes of maize, which is one and a half month’s supply of maize for mealie-meal production for national consumption. Mwamba believes that the government’s decision to export the surplus maize has contributed to the current food insecurity. “So, I don’t understand what the Service Chiefs are doing at Kasumbalesa Border instead of marching to Mulungushi House, which houses the Ministry of Agriculture and arresting the culprits that have caused national insecurity,” he said.