The New Heritage Party (NHP) says the United Party for National Development (UPND) government is allegedly being duplicitous and corrupt in its dealings with the Zambia National Service (ZNS) on the mealie meal intervention programme.
As reported by Zambia Monitor on Thursday, Chief Government Spokesperson, Cornelius Mweetwa, announced that cheaper ZNS mealie meal would be offloaded on the local market, starting with all the Shoprite outlets in Lusaka and later taken to other provinces.
However, Party president, Chishala Kateka, in a statement issued in Lusaka on Friday, cautioned Zambians against being excited claiming they might get disappointed like it happened to Soya beans farmers.
Kateka faulted government claims that they had established the real cost of production at 25 kg bag of breakfast meal to be K180 and that with a markup of K30, the millers and the retailers would be catered for.
She argued that this was a dishonest act on the part of a government desperately trying to buy back its waning political fortunes as a result of waning confidence in the government.
“It is dishonest because this same government not so long ago, ordered all the millers to buy up all the maize from our farmers that were not being bought by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) at market prices,” Kateka said.
She said these prices were in all cases higher than what FRA was paying for the maize it was buying and storing as a strategic reserve.
Kateka said the milling companies dutifully bought the remaining maize in bulk so as to ensure security of supply of the commodity in the market.
“Having duped the millers into buying up all the expensive maize just as they duped the farmers into growing soya beans with a fake promise of some imaginary international soya deal they had allegedly struck with an equally phantom buyer, the Zambian millers are going to be stuck with mealie meal they will not be able to sell owing to the artificially below market fixed price that the ‘Allied Millers’ will be selling their mealie meal at,” she argued.
Kateka added that most millers would now have their financiers, the banks, asking for the loans gotten to purchase the maize to be paid back as scheduled.
She further argued that it was clear for anyone with basic understanding of how commerce works that, ultimately milling factory closures are going to follow with attendant job losses.
“This will lead to an actual mealie meal shortage due to questions of the capacity of the ZNS and the shadowy “Allied Millers” to satisfy national demand,” Kateka said.
She alleged that the deal smacks of yet more corruption, and lack of transparency in the manner the procurement, selection and engagement of the ZNS and the so called ‘Allied Millers’ and Shoprite stores had been done.
Kateka asked government to come clean on the issue and, for the first time, attempt to be truthful by coming with proof of a public and transparent tender process that they engaged to choose these entities including obscure ones which the Minister could not name.
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