Thursday, March 21, 2013

Opposition working with millers to undermine govt - Musenge

Opposition working with millers to undermine govt - Musenge
By Abigail Chaponda and Misheck Wangwe
Thu 21 Mar. 2013, 14:01 CAT

COPPERBELT minister Mwenya Musenge says the shortage of 25 kilogramme bags of breakfast mealie-meal in most parts of the country could be a political ploy by some millers and opposition political parties working together to undermine the government.

And Musenge says he is disappointed with some police officers especially those manning road blocks and border posts for allowing smuggling of mealie-meal.

During a tour at Roan Antelope Milling on Tuesday, Musenge said possibilities of some partisan individuals playing tricks to paint a picture that the government was not working, could not be ruled out.

He said there were individuals wanting to undermine the government to gain political mileage.

"As far as we are concerned, milling companies are producing mealie-meal and the country has enough. The question is: where it is going? There is a puzzle that needs to be undone. There is something seriously wrong and we are making headways on these issues," Musenge said.

"These people think we don't know, we are aware of their plans. Some opposition political parties and some millers and some foreigners have come on board as well and are working together. They want to buy out mealie-meal in the Copperbelt because it is a strategically strong political province to make an impression that the government has failed so that they can vote the PF government out of power. Dr Kenneth Kaunda was removed from power because of the mealie-meal crisis and this is what these people are planning."

He said he had visited all the milling companies on the Copperbelt and found that there was plenty of mealie-meal and that he did not understand how the country could be experiencing shortages when the commodity was available in the country.

And Musenge said he was aware that some men in uniform were receiving kickbacks and conniving with some milling companies to allow them smuggle mealie-meal out of the country.

"We are also investigating police officers especially those manning road blocks and border posts. They are corrupt because they are receiving bribes and allowing the smuggling of mealie-meal. These people are not patriotic and once they are caught, they will be dealt with severely," he said.

Musenge said police officers should love their country more than anything easy because allowing smuggling of the staple food meant that they were killing the nation.

He said if police officers had failed to perform their duties, PF had patriotic members who were more than willing to perform their duties by intercepting smugglers.

"PF has patriotic members who are more than willing to work for their government, President and party to correct the situation. If police officers don't want to work, PF members can work. It is unacceptable for a country to run out of mealie-meal when millers are producing enough for the country and exports," said Musenge.

And Antelope chief executive officer Emmanuel Efstahiou confirmed that some millers were loading mealie-meal at night and exporting to other countries.

"It is true that mealie-meal moves at night when others are not watching. The government should do something about this situation because this is what is causing the shortages," said Efstahiou.

On Monday, Jamas Milling managing director John Coutlis blamed the current shortage of mealie meal on weak monitoring mechanisms by law enforcement agencies.

Coutlis accused law enforcement agencies of allowing rampant smuggling of mealie meal to neighbouring countries.

Meanwhile, police on the Copperbelt have impounded over 600 bags of mealie-meal at Kasumbalesa border destined for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Police officers deployed at Kasumbalesa have also impounded about 10 trucks laden with mealie-meal and maize.

Police sources yesterday disclosed that the Copperbelt command had deployed over 150 officers to curb smuggling which had caused shortages of mealie-meal in most towns in the province.

"The operation at Kasumbalesa border started on Tuesday and it will go on for some time because we want to end this smuggling problem. It is an open secret that the border is porous and these traders and millers have taken advantage of that and they have been transporting the commodity in huge quantities. It is shocking to see bulks of mealie-meal that illegally enter Congo and these traders are saying it's because of huge demand and good prices in that country. One bag in Congo DR costs over KR100," a police source said.

The sources said police had sealed off the border to end smuggling as the issue of mealie-meal had become sensitive.

The source said many millers had agents and secret depots at the border selling the commodity for them.

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