By Staff Reporter
Mutare: Residents in the eastern border city are up in arms with shop owners who are demanding foreign currency for subsidised mealie meal being distributed under by the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ).
The millers’ group last week rolled out its zonal distribution of the staple with 800 metric tonnes delivery of roller meal to Mutare.
This was to cushion the country’s vulnerable communities against high costs of acquiring the scarce staple.
Under the programme, a 10kg bag of mealie called for $70.
Residents say the programme has since been hijacked by unscrupulous retailers who are demanding payment in cash or foreign currency.
In Dangamvura high density suburb, residents said retailers were not accepting plastic money or other electronic modes of payment but insisted on cash or foreign currency.
“Where do they expect us to get hard cash!” said one Tinashe Ngirande, a city resident.
“We are told it’s a government programme funded by taxpayers’ money. So, I don’t see why they are not accepting all legal forms of payment.”
Ngirande said while most workers were earning their salaries in local currency, it was unreasonable for retailers to demand forex in a government subsidised programme.
Another city resident said shop owners were demanding forex payments so they could trade the money on the thriving black market.
“They came and demanded One Money, cash or forex. They know that Ecocash and swipe are the most popular forms of electronic payment in the country.
“The reason is to push us to pay in forex and cash to spin on the black market and make more money,” said Patrick Sagonda.
Residents appealed to government to intervene and protect them from greedy businesses.
GMAZ spokesperson, Garikai Chaunza who is among teams that have been overseeing the zonal distribution of the staple, confirmed receiving such reports from members of the public.
“As millers, we are selling mealie meal to retailers with cash, Ecocash or swipe at $63 per 10kg. Most retailers are paying us using swipe or transfer.
“They are supposed to sell at $70 cash, Ecocash, swipe or any electronic method using local currency,” said Chaunza.
He said those caught in the unfair practice will be blacklisted by GMAZ and will not be eligible for similar programmes in future.
Chaunza said residents with foreign currency were allowed to convert their monies elsewhere into local currency before purchasing the mealie meal.
“They should not be forced or pushed by retailers to pay in other currencies,” said GMAZ spokesperson.