Violent clashes over cotton sales

HARARE - Scores of Zanu PF youths were left injured in Sanyati last week after they attempted to force farmers to sell their cotton produce to Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco).

The youths wore T-shits emblazoned Cotton Yese Kuna President (all cotton to the president), a Sanyati farmer told the Daily News yesterday.

This comes as farmers are increasingly opting to sell to private players who are offering better prices.

Zanu PF legislator for Sanyati Blessed Runesu Geza confirmed the heckling of youths and farmers in his constituency.

He could not, however, be drawn to stating which party the youths were being drawn from.

The youths, Geza said, accuse farmers of receiving free inputs through the Presidential Input Support Programme and then turning their backs on Cottco when the year’s cotton marketing season began last month.

This comes as government is desperate to recover the $42 million investment it made into the cotton sector with side marketing rife.

“ . . . I have just noticed that everywhere in the areas where cotton is being grown that is the biggest problem,” Geza said.

“The thing is there are a lot of players in the industry but Cottco is taking advantage that it distributed inputs so they are now using the president’s name and these youths to coerce farmers to take their cotton to Cottco when in fact they are some farmers who have obligations to private players to whom they are contracted with.”

Geza said, the rogue youths were “abusing the name of the president” before confirming that they had labelled their T-shirts Cotton Yese Kuna President.

“We want a level playing field. These private players are licensed and should be protected. No farmer should be bullied. We are also encouraging farmers to honour their contracts.”

Geza was also concerned that side-marketing had spiked as private players were offering better prices than Cottco.

Agricultural Marketing Authority (Ama) official in Sanyati Evans Phiri said he was yet to hear of clashes between Zanu PF youths and farmers before requesting “three days” to investigate.

However, Sanyati Cotton farmer John Jonhasi said farmers were living in fear of having their cotton produce taken.

“We actually had to fight off these youths in Kasiriri last week, why intimidate us when they don’t know where we received our inputs?” he questioned. 

There was also concern that some of the presidential input scheme ranging from seeds and fertilisers got to the farmers late.

Reports were also rampant in Gokwe Nembudziya that farmers are also taking the law into their own hands to protect their produce.

Questions sent to Gokwe Nembudziya legislator Justice Mayor Wadyajena last Sunday had not been responded to at the time of going to print.

Zanu PF legislator for Rushinga Wonder Mashange said they were not having problems.

“We do not have such incidences, neither have we received reports of side marketing,” Mashange said.

“As leaders, we are moving and encouraging farmers to honour contractual agreements.

“If they were contracted with Grafax they should honour that contract and they should do the same with Cottco.

“We are actually having a star rally in Rushinga on the 17th to encourage farmers on the issue.”

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