The government owes the Zambian people an explanation over the mealie meal fiasco and its ramification.
As at yesterday bags of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) BAGS OF MEALIE MEAL FROM South Africa were selling in shops in Lusaka, but which bags were promptly confiscated by alleged government agents.
Three issues arise.
Firstly, this maize meal was supposed to be in transit to border areas of our country that are facing demand pressure. Therefore it was meant specifically for export and not domestic consumption. This has not been the case and indeed the position was contradicted by the Minister of Finance and National planning Mr. Situmbeko Musokotwane, who clearly stated that imports were intended to assuage the critical maize meal deficit in the country.
This position was confirmed by periodic shortages of mealie meal in Lusaka and yet Lusaka is very much inland. Clearly this GMO maize meal is already being consumed in the country. This would appear to contradict the law, which requires strict authorization for GMO substance. This has not been done and yet the maize meal is here in circulation.
There has been an assurance from Mount Makulu regarding the safety of GMO maize meal, but such assurances contradict the law which provides for procedures of certification, before importation. The procedures include publication of the desire to import in the media, to solicit objections or concurrence. This was not done rendering the exercise illegal.
The current situation is totally ambiguous and is need of clarification by none other than government to assure Zambians that it is safe to consume GMO maize meal.
Secondly the government must clarify the lifting of import levies on this maize meal if indeed it is intended for export. This confirms the worry and concern by millers regarding the deleterious effect of imports on the local market, plagued by uncertainty, inconsistent supply and inadequate information.
It is reassuring that the millers met with the President who assured them of governments intention to limit market volatility which would imperil local business.
In spite of this assurance the government must spell out in no uncertain terms under what conditions imported maize meal will be sold internally otherwise unscrupulous traders will take advantage of exporting non GMO maize meal, packaged as GMO to evade law enforcement agencies and indeed take advantage of the waiver..
Lastly and most importantly the whole fiasco of this years maize shenanigans must be explained considering that exports were initially authorized by the government. We still have trucks in the country waiting to load grain, having paid for tonnes as authorized by FRA but later withheld, a situation which may raise both legal and diplomatic problems.
These explanations are necessary to assure the Zambian people that nothing untoward can now be expected as the government struggles to stabilize the situation with regard to mealie meal supply.