8 February 2013

Zambia: Amid Shortages, Police Seize 285 Bags of Mealie-Meal

Amid rapidly rising costs, price controls, and increasing food shortages across many parts of Zambia, today police in Nchelenge district of Luapula Province have confiscated 285 bags of mealie meal and arrested two for smuggling.

Luapula Province Police Commissioner, Philimon Mutale, confirmed the development to the Zambia News and Information Services (ZANIS) in Nchelenge.

Mutale said the police yesterday carried out two anti-smuggling operations after a tip-off from members of the public and seized the mealie meal contraband from the suspected smuglers.

He said in the first operation carried out between 08:30 hours and 09:30 hours police picked up Justine Mwansa, aged 35 years, a resident of Nkomba Village in Chief Kambwali's area and a Congolese National identified as Treazour Kabulo Kamangu, aged 26.

Mealie-meal, which is the staple food for most Zambian citizens, has more than doubled in price in the past few months, leading to a confrontation between millers and the government and a bitter dispute over the effectiveness of price controls and general agricultural policies. As the commodity has risen in value, many people have taken to hoarding and smuggling of these foodstuffs.

In Luapula, Mutale said the two men were found in possession of 191 by 25 kg bags of mealie meal which they concealed in one of the houses in Kashikishi.

The Police Commissioner said the bags of mealie meal were going to be smuggled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) via Lake Mweru.

Mutale said the two men have since been jointly charged with Assembling for purposes of smuggling and were scheduled to appear in the Nchelenge Magistrates' court this morning.

He said in another operation conducted between 18:00 hours and 19:00 hours, police recovered 94 by 25 kg bags of breakfast mealie meal which were found hidden in a store room situated at the Harbour of Lake Mweru.

Mutale said the owner of the store room identified as Matanda Katongo was reported to be in Lusaka for business but his wife bolted after hearing of the police presence.

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