Reminiscent of the second republic under Kenneth Kaunda, Zambians are suddenly seeing queues as desperate citizens seek mealie meal.
Social media has been awash with images of women in particular in long winding queues waiting to buy mealie meal which is in short supply.
Queues that were associated with the rundown economy experienced under the UNIP one-party state with its centrallised economy have suddenly resurfaced.
The shortage of mealie meal is nothing short of a scandal in a country that boasts of having enough maize in its national silos.
Worse is the fact that Government has failed to explain what has brought about this shortage of mealie meal that has also seen its price rise beyond the reach of an average Zambian.
Government wants to blame the shortage on smugglers it says are taking maize and mealie meal to the neighbouring Congo DR.
But as we have pointed out before, Congo DR – along the common frontier with Zambia – has always sourced its food needs from the Zambian side and smuggling has been part of the equation.
But never in recent years have Zambians been subjected to lining up for essential commodities as seen now.
Hundreds of Kitwe residents on Tuesday thronged Mufungo Milling Ltd Trading as Nkana Milling depot in Kapoto township and queued for hours on end for the now acutely scarce mealie-meal despite continued assurances from government that there is enough of the staple food in the country.
This rush and scramble for the staple food at Nkana Milling was after word went that the depot had received new stock of mealie meal which was selling at K170 while it has been fetching as much as K270 in some other outlets.
A spot check found two long queues separated by gender waiting to buy the commodity that seemed not to be enough for the crowd that had besieged the outlet.
Heavily armed police officers had to be deployed in anticipation of a scramble and riot as residents struggled to buy the commodity which is now being limited to one bag per family and could only be accessed after the production of a National Registration Card in some instances.
Yet, just last week, Copperbelt Minister Elisha Matambo assured residents that queuing for mealie meal would be a thing of the past as the province would be allocated 80 percent of the 30, 000 metric tonnes of maize that the Food Reserve Agency had offloaded on the market.
May be Government should listen to the Zambia Consumer Association (ZACA) which has urged it to declare the mealie-meal shortage a national emergency.
ZACA executive secretary Juba Sakala said consumers queuing up for mealie-meal is an indication that the shortage has reached crisis proportions.
It is strange though that this has not been admitted by the government yet the Ministry of Agriculture has written to the Zambia Chambers of Commerce and Industry to ask its members to import mealie meal to stem the shortage.
President Hakainde Hichilema, who has so far taken a back-row seat has now stepped in to address the shortage.
The sooner “tantameni” ends, the better for Zambians do not want to go through that route.

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