Mealie meal smugglers stone Lusambo’s motor convoy

COPPERBELT Province minister Bowman Lusambo has warned that he will not tolerate the illegal exportation of mealie-meal on the Copperbelt. Mr. Lusambo observed that Zambia was losing millions of Kwacha in smuggled mealie meal to neighbouring countries, a trend which he said should come to an end. And Mr Lusambo and his entourage was on Saturday morning stoned by suspected criminals in Chililabombwe. This was after the minister unexpectedly inspected the Kasumbalesa border post to get first-hand account of the extent of mealie-meal smuggling taking place through the post. Mr. Lusambo’s group which included eight journalists was attacked by unknown people who blocked the road with objects and later started throwing stones at the minister and his team. But police officers who accompanied the minister fired two warning shots in the air but the action only worsened the situation. The convoy was forced to proceed hurriedly by taking an alternative route to central business district (CBD) of Chililabombwe. The convoy quickly headed for the Chililabombwe police station where the minister inspected impounded vehicles carrying maize. Briefing the Journalists later, Mr. Lusambo described the three hours fact-finding operation as successful. When asked on the stoning incident, he assumed that criminals had mistaken his entourage for an escort for vehicles transporting the mealie meal commodity. Mr. Lusambo said it was clear that there was need to beef up security personnel in the area. He admitted that what transpired showed that there was need to seal loopholes, and manpower currently deployed was overwhelmed. “I am disappointed because having moved from Kasumbalesa to Kasama border, I have not witnessed any one smuggling the commodity but I am made to believe that people were informed of my visit today. “I appreciate the efforts by the men in uniform to go round the smuggling of the commodity but let me be quick to warn the criminals that they day is coming and I shall not rest until sanity is brought to the border town. He queried the police officers found manning the border about the rampant increase in smuggling of the essential commodity to DR Congo. Mr Lusambo was briefed by the police officers together with Zambia National Service (ZNS) officers that the border was sealed and being watched over. However, the smugglers had now resorted to using other clandestine routes to smuggle mealie meal out of Chililabombwe. In an interview with the Sunday Nation yesterday, the minister vowed to tighten up security at the border post and ensure that no mealie meal leaves the country illegally. He warned Zambian transporters and traders aiding the illegal export of mealie meal to the DR Congo that the law would catch up with them soon. He reiterated that Government had not opened up the maize export market and all those found smuggling the community would be arrested. The operation ended at 02.00 hours on Saturday with Mr Lusambo promising that he would return to the border facility soon to check if the measures employed were successful.