HARARE - The Grain Marketing Board is one of many State-run enterprises that are struggling to stay afloat owing to myriad of challenges that include poor corporate governance and the obtaining liquidity crunch.
It is public knowledge that GMB has enjoyed monopoly in the grain sector for years but has continuously failed to break even, even when the country registers above average rains.
Farmers who delivered grain to the GMB in the 2013/14 farming season only got paid for their crop midway into 2015, forcing many into borrowing further to fund their 2014/15 season.
There is need for the grain company to pay farmers timely as these are the very people that keep it operational.
However, it is public knowledge that State-run companies are poorly run with most teetering on the verge of collapse. Zesa Holdings (Zesa), the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), The Cold Storage Company (CSC), CMED Private Limited (CMED), the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) have routinely failed to deliver on their mandates with Zesa recently announcing it was mulling a tariff increase.
The NRZ is battling a crisis of monumental proportions and, together with the GMB and many local authorities in the country, has failed to pay its workers for some time now.
For the GMB, it is even worse given that only last week, former employees were picketing at the company’s head office in Harare demanding their salary arrears. Management does not seem to have any solution to the workers’ plight.
These workers have genuine concerns. They have lives to live. They have children who have to go to school, besides the usual basics such as food and shelter.
Meanwhile, the country is facing one of its worst droughts in years with over 3,5 million people requiring food aid. Government has since started mobilising resources to import grain to mitigate the impending food shortages.
This comes against the background of government’s flat refusal to allow Genetically Modified Foods into the country, despite its clear lack of capacity to deal with the food shortages in the country.
We believe though that even though they are going through challenges like any other corporate, the GMB must be humane enough and solve their issue with their former employees. One way of doing it would have been coming up with a payment plan that would be acceptable to both parties as opposed to burying their head in the sand and pretend that all is well when we all know that they are struggling.
The GMB saga is only one of several time bombs that could explode any time. Local authorities and other State-run entities must address the plight of their workers before these degenerate into open fights.