Blessings Mashaya 7 May 2017
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
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
“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
Some frustrated farmers confirmed that they had battled over the past
month to access money from both banking halls and at automated teller
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
“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.