Opinion

Sata’s Future and the Price of Mealie Meal

Arguably, the dwindling of popularity for the Patrotic Front (PF) government is fast emerging judging by the pace at which matters of governance are spiraling out of control.

Ministers and other party cadres at all structures have been making senseless public statements and have engaged in questionable activities, throwing into disarray their campaign promises and political party reputation.

In late 1990s, Zambia’s founding president Dr. Kenneth Kaunda thought he had absolute control of Zambians but he realized things had slipped from his grip when he increased the price of mealie meal, our national food staple. There were uncontrollable riots and other forms of public disorder among citizens who would later vote the United National Independence Party (UNIP) out of government.

Mealie meal is a product of milled corn that has been Zambia’s staple food for decades and the locals are quite passionate about this commodity.

An average Zambian would rate you highly after visiting your home if you offer that person nshima, a very thick ‘tasteless’ paste that is produced from cooked mealie meal on the buffet, since Zambians consider a meal to be complete when it includes portions of nshima.

This week, the price of Mealie Meal in Zambia was increased by K5, 000 (over US$1).

In Lusaka, traders had effected the new price structure, even if they wee operating on old stock and the authorities were mute on the matter.

In Lusaka’s Kabwata and Chilenje suburbs, the price of mealie meal had shot up.

A 25 kilo gram bag of Breakfast and Roller Meal which was previously selling at 45,000 kwacha is now selling at 50,000 kwacha.

Some traders have questioned the increase in the proce of Mealie Meal price when Agriculture Minister Emmanuel Chenda was bragging on national television that Zambia had recorded a bumper harvest this farming season.

The increase in the price has not only characterized Lusaka Mealie Meal sellers but also on the Coperbelt, Luapula, Southern and Northern Provinces.

In Kitwe, a 25 Kg bag of breakfast mealie meal was increased by the margin of K5, 000 (about US$1).

Many Zambians expected the President or perhaps a senior cabinet Minister to address the nation on the increase, but Northern Province Permanent Secretary Emmanuel Mwamba was beamed on the independent MUVI television attributing the price hike to market forces regarding the maize marketing season.

Mwamba said the hike in the price was because the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) had failed to sell most of the maize to millers.

He said FRA was in the process of stocking up the grain and has not started selling maize to the millers.

But the Civil Society for Poverty Reduction rubbished the assertion saying it was unfair for the government to continue subsidising maize to millers when the cost of mealie-meal had remained high.

The Zambia Consumer Association (ZACA) has condemned the price hike.

ZACA executive director Muyunda Ililonga says the price hike was not justifiable since the PF government was claiming a bumper harvest and it had also promised to reduce the price of mealie meal during their political campaigns of 2011.

If the statement from Emmanuel Mwamba was anything to go with, it clearly shows that this government had failed to manage the agriculture sector entirely.

But one would also realize that the government had failed to manage the maize marketing programme because farmers have not started selling their maize to farmers yet.

The maize marketing season ostensibly opens on June 1 of every year, but this programme has been postponed twice under the PF this year and farmers are still stuck their grain. They are waiting for farming subsidies for the 2012-2013 season, but this many take long since they have not cleared the crop from the previous season.

This fact points to the possibility of maize going to waste and farmers losing their resources with the onset of the rain season which is in earnest because the crop would be soaked.

This gloomy picture is a reality that haunts everyone in Zambia, but at the same time, it is an indicator to how unprepared this government was to lead the country.

Over and above, it is also testimony that the PF is an amalgamation of treacherous, corrupt and incompetent elements who cheated Zambians that they would make life better before the 2011 elections.

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