CONCERNS have been raised over hoarding of mealie-meal in Victoria Falls where it is sold in United States dollars to Zambian cross-border vendors on the black market, thereby creating artificial shortages of the commodity.
Sunday News understands that some millers divert mealie-meal to the black market in the resort town where they sell to Zambians who allegedly smuggle it to their country.
The Zambian vendors, popularly known as Mzangas, resell the mealie-meal among other goods in their country where they make more money.
Some local individuals and shops have also reportedly joined the bandwagon as they hoard mealie-meal from shops and resell it to omzanga outside.
In the shops, a 10kg bag of mealie-meal costs about RTGS$64 and it is sold for US$3 outside, with 20kg and 50kg bags going for US$6 and US$15 respectively. The concern is compounded by lack of monitoring of the situation as the hoarding and bush selling of the mealie-meal is happening without anything being done to curb the practice.
“People grab all the mealie-meal as soon as it is delivered and stock it to resell at Emaplankeni where there is a ready market in US dollars. Some wholesale shops (names given) would even tell customers that mealie-meal is finished yet it will still be there in the shop as they keep it for the black market,” said a concerned local dealer.
“Zimbabwean mealie-meal reportedly fetches better money in neighbouring Zambia as their products are expensive.”
Some months ago it used to be the other way round where Mzangas would bring mealie-meal for sale in Zimbabwe as locals preferred refined products from the neighbouring country. Besides mealie-meal, a variety of other products such as sugar, rice and juices are smuggled out of the country through the bush.
The same people cross with vegetables, bread and other products which also have a market in Victoria Falls.
Combined Victoria Falls Residents’ Association chairman Mr Morgen Gazza Dube said stakeholders in the resort town carried out an investigation into the matter following public complaints. “The issue of hoarding mealie-meal is now a cause for concern to our residents and we are doing our own investigations before taking the matter to the police with a view of angling on the culprits and bringing them to book.
“We are aware that the municipal security has been raiding unlicensed shops and individuals but this is not enough as suppliers are not playing their part,” he said.
The general feeling is that it is not easy to control the commodity as there are no statutes prohibiting people from buying or shops from selling any quantity to people.
Shops are allowed to sell any quantity to anyone while there are no statutes stopping mealie-meal from being exported.
Grain Millers Association spokesman Mr Garikai Chaunza said the distribution and selling of mealie-meal is not controlled.
“We used to monitor how our products are distributed and sold but the Competitions and Tariffs Commission wrote to us saying we should forthwith stop that and we did so in July. It used to be our role to monitor but we are no longer allowed to do so,” he said.