By Ndafadza Madanha
WITH a week remaining before opening of the tobacco marketing season representatives of various Tobacco associations in the country have come out guns blazing against the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB).
The associations accuse the entity of corruption and working against interests of tobacco growers who are the second largest earners of foreign currency in the country in favor of merchants and contractors.
Making presentations before the parliamentary committee on Agriculture, lands and Rural Resettlement chaired by Mayor Wadyajena representatives of various tobacco associations said the committee should look into the operations of TIMB.
However, the associations heaped praise on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor John Mangudya for opening lines of communication with them that have enabled them to make representations directly to the apex bank chief which culminated in a review of their forex retention from 30 to 50 percent.
Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) chief executive Rodney Ambrose said that TIMB was seemingly working to further the interests of contractors at the expense of farmers coupled with licensing buyers of questionable reputation.
He also told the committee that TIMB had failed to use $23m it has collected over the last four years through the Reforestation levy.
“TIMB is not a neutral body as it listens more to contractors than farmers, for instance TIMB sent a circular to stakeholders to present their concerns and we did but up to now they are yet to appoint a consultant to look into their concerns. Also we now have over 40 licensed buyers and some are not genuine and not adding value to the farmer. I want to say we have engaged with the RBZ directly and I can say he is a listening governor and since last September we have engaged with unlike in the past when the TIMB refused to let us go direct to engage with him.”
The Tobacco Assocation of Zimbabwe (TAZ) which was represented by George Siremu said the TIMB through its Chairperson Monica Chinamsa was working to divide tobacco farmers.
TAZ also queried the composition TIMB board and accused management of misrepresenting concerns of tobacco farmers to the RBZ.
“We seconded Mrs Chinamasa to TIMB to represent our interests as farmers but when she got there and formed another association Zimbabwe National Farmers Union (ZNFU) and this has caused a lot of problems. She has also attempted to block us to make representations to the RBZ governor but we have found the governor to be a listening person”.
TIMB which appeared before the committee represented by it Chairperson Monica Chinamasa and CEO Andrew Matibiri failed to respond to the allegations after the committee felt their submissions did meet the standards expected.
The committee requested that TIMB provide them with a number of documents pertaining to its operations.