Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

‘Mealie-meal a source of conflict’

By Nqobile Tshili/Mthabisi Tshuma

The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) has said access to subsidised mealie-meal has become a source of conflict that needs to be diffused before it gets out of hand during the lockdown period.

Residents queue for mealie-meal at Entumbane Shopping Complex in Bulawayo yesterday
Residents queue for mealie-meal at Entumbane Shopping Complex in Bulawayo yesterday

Many people are spending long hours queuing for mealie-meal and sometimes they do not get it.

The queues have resulted in members of the public failing to observe social distancing and lockdown regulations, a critical component of flattening the Covid-19 curve.

It has also been reported that the shortage of mealie-meal has led to mini-cartels who control the distribution and selling of the cheaper mealie-meal.

The cartels are accused of diverting the mealie-meal to the black market where 10kg that costs $70 on the formal market is sold between $120 and $180 depending on the suburb where it is sold. Some people are even selling it in foreign currency at R100 or US$6 per 10kg.

Police officers roped in to control mealie-meal queues have also been accused of causing confusion and hoarding the product.

The NPRC whose mandate is to promote peace and reconciliation says it has received multiple complaints from members of the public about underhand dealings in the selling of the Government subsidised mealie-meal.

NPRC complaints handling and investigations commissioner Reverend Charles Masunungure said most of the complaints were coming from Bulawayo, Matabeleland South and Harare.

“I cannot give you the actual number of complaints that we have handled but I can safely say that the majority of the complaints are around the unfair distribution of mealie-meal especially in cities. Bulawayo is topping the list then Matabeleland South and Harare. Those are the major areas where people were complaining about access to mealie-meal,” said Comm Masunungure.

He said through NPRC interventions, police arrested a suspected neighbourhood watch committee member in Harare while in Esigodini, Matabeleland South the hoarded mealie-meal was recovered and sold to the members of the public.

Comm Masunungure said while some people seem to be raising eyebrows over their involvement in mealie-meal issues, the peace commission was executing its mandate in line with Section 252 (f) of Constitution.

According to Section 252 (f) the NPRC is mandated “to receive and consider complaints from the public and to take such action in regard to the complaints as it considers appropriate.”

Said Comm Masunungure:

“The Constitution also talks about using mechanisms of early warnings so that we prevent violent conflicts from happening. We have to do anything incidental for the promotion of peace and the prevention of conflict. In our view food issues are sources of serious conflicts and it will be naïve for the NPRC to wait until there is violence because of food, to act.”

He said the NPRC might not address all the reported cases but refer others to relevant departments for handling and investigations.

Comm Masunungure said the commission engaged the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) over complaints raised by the public and how it can improve on selling mealie-meal to the public.

“Some of the complaints were bordering around queuing for a long time and getting nothing as the mealie-meal is bought by those who buy in bulk.

“The other one was the refusal to accept other payment methods other than cash and the third one is the issue of social distancing which the public are raising and also the health officials are raising,” said Comm Masunungure.

“The other one was around law enforcement and other Government employees who come and buy in bulk.

“There is no complaint about them buying in front of everyone but there is a complaint about them hoarding.”

Chronicle yesterday observed scores of people queuing for mealie-meal at Entumbane Shopping Mall in the city.

The mealie-meal was sold out leaving scores stranded without getting it.

The residents claimed that some corrupt people were hoarding the mealie-meal to sell it on the parallel market.

Some of the residents said they were going for days without eating isitshwala due to mealie-meal shortage, despite frequent deliveries.

Mrs Precious Ndlovu from Entumbane suburb said some people were paying other residents to queue for them in order to channel the mealie-meal to the black market.

“In the area, there are people who are coming with a group of people to buy on their behalf. They buy the mealie-meal so that they sell it later on the black market in forex at R100 or US$6 when they would have got it for $70. We hardly get the mealie-meal in shops and we cannot afford to buy from the parallel market,” said Mrs Ndlovu.

Ms Isabel Ncube from the same suburb said with the two-week extension of the national lockdown Government should flood the market with mealie-meal.

Mr Jabulani Moyo from Emakhandeni suburb said they now have to keep checking on shops that are expected to take delivery of mealie-meal.

“I woke up at around 3AM today and walked to Entumbane Shopping Complex as I had heard that mealie-meal will be delivered today. But by the time I arrived, there were already scores of people in front of me in the queue but being one of the early birds, I managed to get it,” said Mr Moyo. The Chronicle