MILLERS have with immediate effect slashed mealie-meal prices following an emergency meeting called by President Michael Sata.
The Head of State yesterday held a meeting with members of the Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) to halt escalating prices of the staple food.
After the State House meeting yesterday, MAZ agreed to peg the wholesale price of a 25kilogramme bag of breakfast mealie- meal at KR47 (K47, 000) and KR50 (K50, 000) for retail.
Similarly, a 25kilogramme bag of roller meal will now cost KR35 (K35, 000) wholesale price, while the retail price is now KR38 (K38, 000).
Before proceeding for the closed-door meeting with the millers, President Sata said he would not allow mealie-meal prices to remain high as this could degenerate into food riots which were experienced in UNIP's reign in 1986 and 1990.
The Patriotic Front (PF) Government would not allow exploitation of Zambians by the millers as this could spark riots.
The meeting followed defiance by millers to reduce prices of the staple food, which had skyrocketed to a record-high of KR76 in far-flung areas.
"It is not the intention of this Government to introduce price controls but the State has a duty to protect the masses against manipulative practices by unscrupulous businessmen," Mr Sata told the meeting.
Details of the outcome of the meeting were issued in a statement issued by Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations George Chellah in Lusaka yesterday.
President Sata said riots in the UNIP era contributed to First President Kenneth Kaunda's government to be voted out of office in 1991.
"If no one will protect the people, I will do it myself, riots caused Kenneth Kaunda's UNIP to be voted out and I will not allow riots," the President said.
Mr Sata encouraged millers to open sales depots in townships to minimise the high prices charged to consumers by some traders.
He emphasised the need for millers and the Government to work together in national development.
The meeting with the MAZ was preceded with President Sata swearing-in Julius Shawa as the new Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Supply and Communications.
Mr Sata bemoaned the lack of a national airline and poor communication network, especially the railway line.
He said the civil service was very important and called for commitment to duty if the country was to attain higher heights of development.
There was urgent need to have the Kwacha strengthened against foreign currencies such as the United States dollar.
"We need to rebase our Kwacha even more by the end of this year. We used to have UBZ, we used to have a national airline, but now, look at our minibuses, railway line, it is a laughing stock, yet we have people who are looking intelligent," he said.
He said the country had an abundance of mineral resources such as emeralds but was still struggling economically.
"You civil servants, you are allowing our emeralds to be sold in India, yet your people are suffering. If God wanted to give India emeralds, he could have done so but he has blessed us with minerals," he said.
President Sata ordered the Zambia Revenue Authority not to allow any exports to leave the country without being paid for.