ZIMBABWEANS are flocking to buy mealie-meal from neighbouring Zambia, as the effects of the El Nino-induced drought worsen, particularly in Matabeleland North.
According to The Post newspaper of Zambia, Zimbabweans are now being blamed for mealie-meal shortages in the resort town of Livingstone, as they are buying the commodity in bulk.
“A check at the Victoria Falls bus station found many Zimbabweans and Zambians loading bags of mealie-meal into minibuses and taxis destined for Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls,” the paper reported on Wednesday.
“A taxi driver, who operates between the Zambia and Zimbabwe border, said an average of 40 to 50 Zambians and Zimbabweans hire him every day to transport mealie-meal across the border to the Zimbabwean side.”
He said most Zambians were now engaging in barter trade with Zimbabweans where they exchanged the sought-after commodity for basics.
“We have many of our (Zimbabwean) friends coming in every day to buy mealie-meal. We also have many Zambians, especially those that cycle, crossing over with bags of mealie-meal and returning with cooking oil, fruit juice, sugar and rice, which are relatively cheaper in Zimbabwe than in our Zambian shops,” the taxi driver was quoted saying.
A spokesperson for the opposition Rainbow Party, Paul Sensele, said there was a looming mealie-meal shortage in Livingstone because of the influx of Zimbabweans.
“We are destined for a shortage of mealie-meal in Livingstone if the trend remains the same,” he told The Post. “However, our friends are also human and they need to eat just like us, but the problem is the millers are not meeting the demand for the commodity.”
Zimbabwe this week appealed for help to raise $1,5 billion to feed at least three million people until the next harvest, citing massive crop failure due to drought.
The country usually imports maize from Zambia, which accommodated many white commercial farmers that were displaced by Zimbabwe’s violent land reform programme spearheaded by President Robert Mugabe at the turn of the millennium.
However, this year, the entire southern African region is facing maize shortages due to drought and the Livingstone mealie-meal supplies may soon dry up for starving Zimbabweans.