Sports Minister Chishimba Kambwili has threatened to introduce stone-age UNIP style price controls on the continued escalating prices of mealie meal in the country, and accused millers of exploiting the people.
But opposition UPND vice-president for Politics Dr. Canisius Banda wondered who was in charge of the country in Zambia because of the various policy inconsistencies by PF cabinet ministers.
Government last year were warned by various political parties and civil society organisations against removing key maize and fuel subsidies as that would lead to harsh economic conditions, but Kambwili in an interview said millers were exploiting the people and his government will intervene by introducing the UNIP policies.
But Kambwili’s threats are however contrary to those of his boss a fellow cabinet minister, Guy Scott who said the high mealie meal prices were within the economic dictates of the country.
Kambwili told millers to reduce mealie meal prices because there was too much maize in the country, without giving details where the maize was and how much it was costing.
But the UPND Vice-president Mr. Banda said it was clear that there was a leadership crisis in the PF and serious disjoint in the manner they were running the country because of the various conflicting statements coming from people within the same cabinet.
“We are wondering who is at sea here between Mr. Kambwili and Guy Scott regarding the policy inconsistencies on high mealie meal prices in the country which is costing as much as K100 in some parts of the country. Even worse, the ministers of Agriculture Bob Sichinga and his counter-part at Finance Mr. Alexander Chikwanda are very quiet,” Dr. Banda said.
Dr. Banda said as UPND, they warned the PF government against removing maize subsidies because that would lead to the current situation of high mealie meal prices.
“We knew this would be the result and things are still getting worse. They cheated that they wanted to channel money to various infrastructure projects, yet they are just creating by-elections like is the case now where the country is facing yet another Mkushi nullified election by their Supreme Court,” he said.
He charged that the PF did not care about the welfare of Zambians but mainly concerned with wanting to increase numbers in Parliament through expensive by-elections and sustaining a large cabinet instead of cushioning mealie meal prices through subsidies.
Government have pegged the floor prices of a 50 KG bag at K65, but millers have complained that with the removal of subsidies, they are now buying the same 50 KG bag of maize from the open at K97 which is way beyond the government prices.
Mr Auswell Nyoni of Chimanga Changa Milling in Ndola said milling companies have been compelled to increase the mealie-meal prices because they are buying maize at K97 for a 50kg bag hence the high mealie meal prices coupled with production costs due to removal of fuel subsidies.
The prices of mealie meal in Ndola for a 25kg bag range between K65 and K74.
A bag of Chimanga Changa Milling breakfast meal is pegged at K71 while the same brand from Olympic Milling is being sold for K74.
A Simba Milling breakfast bag is selling at K65. The price was the same for Mpongwe Milling breakfast mealie-meal.
A roller meal bag of Chimanga Changa and Olympic Milling is priced at K57.
In Lusaka, a survey revealed that a 25kg bag of breakfast meal which was previously selling at K54 now averages K70.
In Livingstone, the price of the commodity is now K70.
A National Milling Company (NMC) bag is selling at K73 at Spar Livingstone and at K64 at the NMC town outlet.
At Shoprite, only one brand of 25kg breakfast from Pembe Milling was available and selling at K67.
The MMD left the prices of meal mealie at an average K35 barely some two years ago, but is now fetching close to K100 in far-flung areas such as Mwinilunga, in North-Western province.