GMB monopoly challenge set down for hearing

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HARARE North MDC Member of Parliament Allan Markham’s application challenging the State-run Grain Marketing Board (GMB)’s monopoly to buy and sell maize will be heard by High Court judge Clement Phiri on Thursday.
Markham, who buys and sells maize in communities to support a number of charities, and Murewa-based farmer Clever Rambanapasi, are jointly challenging Statutory Instrument 145 of 2019 promulgated by the government last year which declared maize a controlled product and banned individuals from trading in the cereal.
In High Court application, Markham and Rambanapasi said the regulations, which also empower the police to seize maize suspected of being moved without authority and compliance with the law, created a dangerous monopoly.
“What this therefore means is that the agriculture minister has set up a monopoly and indeed a dangerous monopoly in respect of which anyone who trades in grain, whether is a buyer or seller, can only do so through the GMB and can only do so at a fixed price of $1 400.
“The regulations, restate the re-monopolisation of maize sold to the GMB in Section 5 and 6 of the same. The consequences and effect of the regulations and indeed the consequences and effect of declaring a product a controlled one is therefore drastic,” the court was told.
Through their lawyer Tendai Biti of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the two said the restrictive regulations affected the contractual right of farmers and traders to buy grain from any party or individual, that this has a serious effect on livelihoods, especially in rural communities where communal farmers produce subsistence maize.
Rambanapasi, who runs a piggery project in Murewa, also told the court that maize is an essential ingredient in pig production and that he buys the grain from rural communities in various villages.
In their arguments, the two further said the regulations had affected people who engage in barter trade in communities as well as the freedom to contract and freedom to trade as professional millers, retailers, organisations and individuals.
“In rural communities where communal farmers produce subsistence maize, this has a serious effect on livelihoods. A peasant farmer in Muzarabani must theoretically travel miles away to a GMB depot. Equally, his neighbour, who is starving, must travel miles to that GMB depot to buy grain because the two of them can’t simply exchange.
“Further in these communities, people do barter trade, that is to say they exchange chickens or goats for maize. This can’t happen now. Apart from affecting the freedom to contract, the move affects freedom to trade. Professional millers, retailers and other organisations and individuals, including myself — who had the right to buy maize everywhere — can no longer do so except from GMB,” the two argued.

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