MEALIE meal shortages have reached worrying levels across the country, as residents in the capital endure long queues to acquire strictly one packet of the scarce commodity, amid indications the situation will get worse in the coming weeks.

There were long winding queues in the few shops that had mealie meal since last week, with retailers battling to contain the swelling queues.

It also emerged that some licensed retailers were taking the commodity to the black market, where they were selling clandestinely in foreign currency which many cannot afford to get hold of.

At one major retail outlet, consumers were restricted to one 10kg bag of the commodity, while names, identity document numbers and other personal details were noted to block people from buying more than one pack.

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The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) yesterday conceded the crisis, but said the organisation was bringing in more than 50 000 tonnes of maize by the weekend.

“We are importing maize and we have lorries coming through and by weekend, I am sure they will be in Harare. Bulawayo received last week and that is part of the 50 000 metric tonnes of maize from South Africa,” GMAZ spokesperson Garikai Chaunza said.

“We expect another delivery of 50 000 metric tonnes. Most of the trucks are at the border now and if everything goes on well logistically, by weekend, they will be in Harare.”
Chaunza said the imports were by private players to augment government efforts.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Denford Mutashu said the mealie meal crisis may soon be over after promises by millers that several tonnes were making their way into the country.

“Mealie meal is on the way. We met millers a few days ago and they have maize already in the country and government is running around to secure maize. As an association, we have made a resolution that mealie meal should go to accredited retailers,” he said.

“In the short to medium-term, we will have lots of mealie meal, but currently, demand is very high after the subsidy. That made it difficult to have mealie meal at one place at the same time as a truckload would be finished within 30 minutes upon being offloaded.

“Going forward, we should have lots of maize and have lots of mealie meal. We must not focus on importing. We must put effort on production of maize.”

Mutashu said a few supermarkets were getting mealie meal, while a large number of those in the informal market, which he said constituted 70%, were not getting anything.

He said they had trained monitors to ensure there were no illicit deals in the purchasing of mealie meal.

“We had situations where some would sell a few packets of mealie meal, then reserve the rest for small shops, where they sell in foreign currency. With the monitors in place, that should be a thing of the past,” Mutashu said.

Government has been criticised for not doing enough to acquire adequate maize for the nation with the opposition MDC party accusing Finance minister Mthuli Ncube of lying in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum where he told the international media that no one would starve.

MDC leader Nelson Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda accused Ncube of misleading the country and the world at large.

“Ncube has been an icon of lying and very unbelievable, showing signs that he’s living in his own reality, devoid of the current situation on the ground,” Sibanda said.

“To lie to the world when Zimbabweans can hear him, it’s shameless. Zimbabweans know that people are being fed by international organisations. The United Nations has said the current crisis is man-made by the illegitimate government, (which) he is part of.”