ZIMBABWE is yet to receive 114 000 tonnes of maize it ordered from Zambia despite paying US$28 million in December. This forced government to pay another US$18 million to South Africa for the importation of a consignment of maize estimated to be between 100 000 and 130 000 tonnes for the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to boost the countryâ€™s low maize stocks.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono told President Robert Mugabe at a function last Saturday that the country would not have imported maize from South Africa had Zambia delivered the consignment on time.
“We paid US$28 million for the importation of 150 000 tonnes of additional maize from Zambia. Only 36 000 tonnes were delivered. We paid US$3 million for additional maize being delivered from South Africa. Last month we paid US$15 million to South Africa,” said Gono during the handover ceremony for farm equipment last week.
Reliable sources said Zambia had delayed in delivering the maize because of a misunderstanding with the GMB on the labour needed to load an estimated 200 trucks carrying the maize to Zimbabwe.
“Zambia insisted that Zimbabwe raise the foreign currency to pay for the labour that would load the trucks. GMB has been finding it difficult to raise the foreign currency and Zambia has been doing it at its own pace,” said one RBZ source.
GMB reportedly attempted to send some of its workers to Zambia to load the maize but they were turned back as they did not have the necessary travel documents. GMB general manager Isaac Mandizha was not available for comment but Mashonaland West GMB provincial manager, John Mafa, confirmed the developments.
Mafa said GMB was hoping that Zambia would soon finish loading the maize and send the trucks to Zimbabwe by weekend.
“Our guys were turned back as they had no work permits. We are desperately trying to fix that and as we speak, Zambia is loading that maize for us. However, they can only do it at their own pace since we were supposed to send the labour,” Mafa said.
Mafa said GMB was also finding it difficult to convince their labour force to volunteer to go to Zambia.
“They are not willing to go there. We are looking at other strategies including the use of uniformed forces with passports. We are hopeful that if we do, we can get the maize at the latest by Sunday,” he said.
Asked to confirm whether workers were reluctant to go to Zambia because GMB had failed to guarantee an allowance for them, Mafa referred businessdigest to Mandizha.
“I would not know about that. Please phone head office, they can tell you more,” Mafa said.
Gono would not be drawn into elaborating the reasons behind the failure by Zambia to deliver the maize on time.
Zimbabweâ€™s maize stocks are at a critical level. Mugabe told a rally in Inyathi that government had also imported another 300 000 tonnes of maize from Malawi.
Mugabe said the maize from Malawi would complement deliveries from Zambia.