THE millers are right.
We do not think any person running a successful enterprise would resort to underhand methods, let alone smuggling.
The shortage of mealie meal particularly on the Copperbelt as well as the high prices has been blamed on some unscrupulous millers, smuggling their produce into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
But the Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) has distanced itself from allegations that some of its members are colluding with unscrupulous individuals to smuggle maize meant for local consumption into some neighbouring countries.
In an interview with Millennium TV, MAZ president Andrew Chintala said no reasonable miller would want to engage in mealie-meal smuggling considering the grave consequences that came with such illegal acts.
We do not subscribe to the narrative being peddled by certain political leaders that some millers are smuggling mealie meal at the expense of the local market. It is being disrespectful.
This is running away from the truth behind the shortage of mealie meal on the market.
Milling companies exporting mealie meal have been doing so openly in line with Government guidelines.
As Mr Chintala explained, “We have modalities in terms of the regulated export arrangement, which is in place so we would like to encourage those that would like to engage into exports to approach the millers and negotiate to see how best they can be supported to do it in a legal manner.
“We do not support illegality and as such, we would like to make a call to our colleagues the state security wings that are responsible to ensure that they provide security and monitor the export arrangement that is in place.”
It should be noted that successive governments have always had stringent policies in place that include making use of the defence forces to patrol the Zambia/Congo DR border to curtail smuggling.
If our collective memory serves us right, none of the seized bags of mealie meal or maize have ever been traced to a milling company.
It has always been individuals with the financial muscle to buy mealie meal in bulk and hire transporters who have been intercepted.
We expect the government officials to look at millers as genuine partners in the country’s development agenda.
They should be respected as people running multi-million Kwacha businesses that are contributing to the national coffers as well as to the country’s food security.
This is why even President Hakainde Hichilema had seen it fit to meet the millers recently and listen to their concerns amidst the shortage.
Moreover, we do not think any sensible miller would like to see social unrest breaking out for that would affect their businesses.
Mr Chintala said millers are working with state agencies to ensure that the smuggling is curbed “and obviously there are measures that are in place and we have sufficient laws that should be applied to the perpetrators of this vice.
Because you see what smuggling does is that it affects and disturbs the market, so it is something that obviously we should not pay a blind eye on because that will affect all these other interventions that Government is making with ourselves,” Mr Chintala said.