Lucky Mulusa, MP. Solwezi Central Constituency
It is not my style to respond to letters like the one written by an identifiable manager from Shoprite Solwezi about my visit to Solwezi Shoprite. I am able to identify him by his broken English which comes out like a signature even when he speaks. Given the pain people are experiencing in Solwezi town as a result of the shortage of a commodity that has never missed from the shelves for the past 21 years, I feel compelled to comment. I was compelled to dwell a little deeper in the escalating rise in prices of mealie-meal in Solwezi which has now reached K110.
This matter to me received the utmost attention given the fact that most Solwezi residents are not able to afford mealie-meal prices of up to K110. It is important to note that the commodity retails at K49 in Shoperite which is the biggest retailer and stocker of the commodity in town. I am thinking about a worker earning the minimum wage of K540 and if his family needs two bags per month, then he/she will be spending 40% of his income on mealie-meal alone – how would this family survive?
My investigation revealed that the source of mealie-meal being sold at K110.00 on the black market is actually Shoprite Checkers in Solwezi. I was informed that when the shop receives the commodity, not everything is sold to the general public. I was further informed that bags of the commodity get supplied to the smaller shops who then sale them off to the public at K110.00 against Shoprites’ retail price of K49.00. There were sightings of minibuses loaded with bags of the commodity being offloaded at awkward hours at small shops. This mode of transportation clearly shows that that mealie meal was not coming from anywhere far and that would be at a time when the only shop that would have received the commodity and appeared not to have sold everything to the public is Shoprite. The brand of the mealie-meal would be the same as that earlier offloaded at Shoprite and the only shop supplied by that particular miller would be Shoprite. Therefore, one would not be off the mark to apply deductive reasoning.
Following receipt of these complaints, I decided to visit Shoprite to ascertain for myself that indeed, the shop was hoarding mealie-meal in the storeroom instead of making it available to the general public. After a prolonged discussion with the manager Mr Brusce Mapiki, I was finally allowed to view the storeroom. The storeroom was full of employees of shoprite and security guards from G4 and each person in there had on average two to three bags on trolleys. The bags were being sold from the sales point where items such as cigarettes are sold. The time was between 15:45hours and 16:30hours. Video evidence is available.
I called the Deputy General Manager of Shoprite in Zambia Mr Charles Bota who promised to investigate. My worry is that Shoprite Solwezi has a staff complement of 110. If one includes the 22 workers from other companies such as security guards, cleaners, and merchandisers the total comes to 132. During my visit, some of these workers had on average two to three bags each. If each worker in a worst case scenario carries two bags, this will mean that 264 or 66% of the 400 delivered would have gone to workers alone. Since the shop reserves some bags for men and women in uniform, there would have been very little remaining for the general public. If this habit is repeated every time there is a delivery, then the workers, too, would be a source of supplying the commodity to the black market as they would not be consuming all the bags they would be allocated each time there is a delivery. The workers would simply resale the bags to smaller shops say at K70, and these shops would then resale to the general public at K110. I had to stop it!
CAUSES OF MEALIE-MEAL SHORTAGE
The cause of mealie –meal shortage in Solwezi is simply lack of delivery of the commodity to the town by millers. The millers’ inability to deliver the commodity is being caused by the poor and dangerous state of the road and the distance to Solwezi. Generally lack of insightfulness in policy formulation by the government is at the root cause of this problem and it might spread to many parts of the country. Plunder of national resources can also be in form of activities that appear normal, when alternatives could have served the nation better. Why should maize be moved from Chipata, Kasama and Zambezi to Lusaka for storage and then mealie-meal moved from Lusaka back to those places for consumption? The answer is simple; truckers connected to the government want to make money through transportation contracts with the FRA. This adds a huge and unnecessary cost to the entire channel of distribution. The same money being used on transportation of both maize and mealie-meal can be saved to build storage facilities in districts and provincial centres. This coupled by support in creation of milling plants in provincial centres at a minimum would solve the problem. The current price of mealie-meal is heavily subsidised by government. The general public picks up the tab. The subsidy can simply be avoided by taking storage of maize and production of mealie-meal closer to the people. Watch the space, future prosecutions of plunder of national resources will have evidence derived from deductive reasoning that will unmask the tendency to create opportunities that are costly to the nation but benefit a few individuals.
Lucky Mulusa, MP.
Solwezi Central Constituency