Farmers left to rot at auction floors

HARARE - Tapiwa Kadzura travelled all the way from Karoi, he had his tobacco bales and hoped to make a kill at the auction floors — but reality is different.

He sleeps in a toilet and scrounges for food as he and other farmers are told there is no money to pay them now.

Last week, Kadzura and other fed-up farmers confronted authorities at Tobacco Sales Floors (TSF) demanding their dues, but instead of money, they were teargassed, beaten and had to flea for dear life as charging police officers descended on them, it was quite a scene.

Once the untouchables and the bedrock of Zanu PF rule, the farmers, just like many struggling Zimbabweans, find themselves at the wrong side of the law, ironically and simply because they were demanding their dues.

Narrating his ordeal Kadzura said they now sleep in toilets covering their bodies with sacks.

“We are living like dogs, life is very difficult, we are sleeping in toilets.

“What makes life difficult is some farmers came with their children. We have not bathed for the past two weeks.”

While many people stay safe and warm inside their houses during biting winter nights there is no cheer for farmers, most of them beneficiaries of the agrarian land reform programme.

They sometimes take solace in the fires they make out of plastics, cardboard boxes and used vehicle tyres.

But the fire is not enough to take them through the night.

“I sold my tobacco for $6 000 but I am failing to get cash from my bank. We pick cardboard boxes, used vehicle tyres and plastics during the day and light them when night falls,” said Kadzura.

A visibly angry Kadzura slammed the ruling Zanu PF government saying it has failed to protect them.

“Zanu PF gave us land and we celebrated but now havachatide, (they don’t like us anymore) we are going to vote them out come 2018.

“We are surviving on eating unhealthy food; it’s now like a crime to grow tobacco in Zimbabwe.

“Schools are opening soon, we need schools fees for our children and we also need to pay those who helped us during the farming season.”

Last Thursday, TSF was turned into a war zone as police fought running battles with angry farmers who were demanding that banks release their cash.

Some frustrated farmers confirmed that they had battled over the past month to access money from both banking halls and at automated teller machines (ATMs).

Many are now sleeping in bank queues hoping to get something the next day.

In an interview with our sister paper the Daily News last week, some farmers said the regime of former Rhodesia Prime Minister Ian Smith was better.

“Hurumende yedu haichadi vanhu yakutirwisa Smith aiva nani (The government is now fighting us. The Smith regime was better).

“We have spent more than two weeks here and we are getting $100 from banks,” a farmer who asked not to be named said.

Another old-aged woman, who also preferred anonymity, showed the Daily News receipts of her tobacco sold on March 22 for $5 000.

“I come from Karoi. I am getting $100 daily but the problem is that there are people who helped us they are also demanding their money and this situation is destroying agriculture,” she said.

For the farmer, reality is slowly sinking in as government is also taxing them to the last dime.

Recently, tobacco farmers disrupted auctions, after the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board listened to a Zimra directive to withhold 10 percent tax on their gross tobacco sales.

The government was later forced to reverse the decision following a meeting between Agriculture minister Joseph Made and his Finance counterpart Patrick Chinamasa, after the farmers threatened to withhold their produce in protest.

Usually nestled in their rural homes, farmers rarely feel the pinch of the dying economy, but now reality is sinking in as they join their urban counterparts in long bank queues.

While some used to get cash backs after buying groceries to take back home, the $20 that was set by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe as the maximum that one can get is a pittance many would rather do without.

Comments (4)

I thought the finance minister recently said the situation had imprved drastically?

Cde Chaurura - 7 May 2017

You were used by Zanu PF like everyone else who can think for themselves is figuring out. Fend for yourself and move away from handouts and the shackles of this cruel regime. Wake up and live!!

Sagitarr - 8 May 2017

I hope you have now learnt a lesson that nothing is free on earth zanupf used you for their selfish ends. Tobacco farming is a commercial activity that requires well resourced and dedicated farmers with bank accounts.

Sinyo - 8 May 2017

Then next year you will be bribed given free fertiliser in exchange for ZANU PF vote Wake up !!!

Slim Cat - 2 July 2017

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