CHISHIMBA Kambwili says if the price and shortage of mealie-meal is not well handled, it is going to cause civil strife like never seen before in Zambia.
Commenting on the shortage and resultant skyrocketing prices of the staple food, the National Democratic Congress leader recalled that in the past the issue of mealie-meal caused uprisings and disturbances.
“The price of mealie-meal is going to cause a civil strife in Zambia. The price and shortage of mealie-meal if not well handled is going to bring civil strife in Zambia that people have never seen,” he warned. “From November when the price of mealie-meal started going up, we were made to believe that it was temporary and that the price will come down. All those in government, including the President, [Lusaka Province minister Bowman] Lusambo, Minister of Agriculture [Michael Katambo] have been issuing statements continually that the price of mealie-meal will come down but to the contrary what we are seeing is that the price of mealie-meal has continued to go up.”
Kambwili, a former PF minister of information, said given what was obtaining, the history of unrests over mealie-meal was about to repeat itself.
“Today National Milling is selling a bag of a 25 Kg of mealie-meal at K249 and other retailers are selling it at K280 in Kabwe and this is unacceptable. Zambia has experienced one serious civil strife during [Dr Kenneth] Kaunda’s time which was based on the price of mealie-meal and history is about to repeat itself if we are not careful as a nation, and if those in government continue to be complacent and glossing over a very serious issue,” he said.
“Governments the world over subsidise their staple foods…For instance, in Angola their staple food is bread and it is highly subsidised to an extent that everybody, including a small child can get coins and go and buy bread. But why is it that we are allowing the price of our staple food to go up? And when these people say we are going to have a bumper harvest, that’s the latest lie – they have been telling us that we are likely to have a bumper harvest and due to that bumper harvest the price of mealie-meal will go down…really what kind of thinking is that?”
Kambwili said telling people that prices of mealie-meal would go down due to the impending bumper harvest was lopsided thinking because operating costs for millers have gone up.
He said with or without a bumper harvest, the price of the staple food would not go down because of the increase in fuel and electricity tariffs which were at the centre of production.
“Look, the price of a 50 Kg bag of maize [went up from] K60 to K150 and has remained as such and even during the new season, the price will remain the same if not going up again… From K60 to K150 and the operating costs for a milling company have gone up by over 200 per cent, electricity has been increased by over 200 per cent, fuel has been increased to unacceptable levels and now what will the bumper harvest do?” Kambwili asked. “With or without the bumper harvest, the price of mealie-meal will still remain the same or will go up. The price of fuel will remain the same or go up, the price of electricity is already increased, so what logic is in their statements?”
Kambwili recalled that the PF media team ridiculed him in January when he said the actual cost of mealie-meal going by the factors of production would be about K250.
He said he feels vindicated that now the price of mealie-meal was as he predicted in January.
He added that any government that fails to control the price of a staple food was a failed government.
“My appeal to my brother and friend President Edgar Lungu, bane nga namufilwa ukwikuta muchipe cha bwali mukukombelesha teti wikute iyo [if you can’t get full from a plate of nshima, you cannot get full from crumbs], the best they can do is to own up and resign and give others who can do something better,” he said.
Kambwili said Zambia was not short of leaders. “Imbwili ilelolela [Kambwili is in waiting] to come and show them the best way to run this country. There is no way the price of mealie-meal can be increasing every day and then now we have shortages. The people of Zambia, I have always told you that when God wants a certain government to leave, he will not tell you that ‘I am God, this government has failed’ but it is calamities like these that start happening,” he said. “God is telling you that these guys are tired. Wake people of Zambians, stop being docile. You have the power; don’t be bought by a chitenge and T-shirt because chitenge and T-shirts will never buy mealie-meal for you. The majority of people today earn just about K700 – guards, maids, garden boys etc, etc. and those that work for Chinese companies…meaning that with their salary they can only buy two bags of mealie-meal and that is it. But where do they get money to take their children to school? Civil servants have had no salary increments to talk about from 2013 when we gave them a proper salary increment but since then they have never had a salary adjustment.”
Kambwili warned the PF government not to play around with food stressing that “anything else but the staple food” would be costly for them.
“Don’t play with food Ba PF, icibemba citila ati akabomba kabiye kamuunda, you can play around with power but not mealie meal,” said Kambwili.