Maize ban triggers Zim-Zambia border stand-off

Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri

Some Zimbabweans without proper documentation were denied entry into Zambia last week as the neighbouring reacted to the confiscation of maize by Zimbabwean authorities following the introduction of Statutory Instrument 145 that gives the Grain Marketing Board the sole right to buy and sell maize.

By Nhau Mangirazi

Many Zimbabweans also flock to Zambia in order to receive cheaper healthcare.

But last week, some Zimbabweans were denied entry into Zambia where they wanted medical attention at Mutenderi Mission Hospital following the confiscation of maize destined to Zambia by Zimbabwe authorities who wanted to make the law work.

Most Zimbabweans have snubbed selling maize to the GMB, accusing the parastatal of underpaying them for their maize, resulting in most of the maize finding its way into Zambia, mostly in areas bordering Zimbabwe. Zambians also visit Zimbabwe to buy maize for resale in their country due to the fall in the RTGS$ value against the US dollar.

But after the introduction of the new law, Zimbabwe started confiscating the maize destined for Zambia, triggering a war, with Zambians retaliating by denying Zimbabweans without proper documentation entry into their country.

“We were denied entry into Zambia after we had hired a local taxi, as we used to do without hassles here. We were caught off guard as Zambians said they were also effecting their laws, without even a humanitarian face. They are not happy about what happened to their countrymen and women over the maize taken away by authorities,’ said Thomas Ranganai, who had accompanied his ailing brother, Edward Ranganai, for treatment.

The elder Ranganai had gone to Zambia for his tuberculosis review from rural Nyamakate.

Another woman, Sarudzai Chidenga of Hurungwe, who had a teenage daughter suffering from suspected cancer, said she had hoped for better medication at Mutenderi Hospital, in Zambia.

“We have been to several public hospitals without joy, and our last hope has been dashed following this standoff as Zambians are no longer lenient to us,” she narrated, as her taxi was turned away.

Of late, the majority of locals have been selling maize as well as oranges to Zambia, which is also facing a maize deficit following the drought that hit southern Africa.

An official at Chirundu border-post confirmed the “stand-off” which he said was unfortunate.

‘The challenge is that we have to implement the law, but it has challenges. As a country, we have poor social services for citizens,” said the official, speaking on condition that he was not named.

There was no immediate comment from both Zambian and Zimbabwean authorities at the time of going to print.

Last week, Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement minister retired Air Marshall Perrence Shiri (pictured) enacted Statutory Instrument 145 of 2019 (Grain Marketing Control of Sale of Maize Regulations, 2019) that bans the buying and selling of maize among unauthorised persons in Zimbabwe.

The SI prohibits anyone or company or entity from buying and selling maize. Transportation of bulk maize from one area to another is also prohibited.