Parliament yesterday humiliated the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) executives by turning them away after coming “ill-prepared” for its meeting with the portfolio committee on Agriculture amid corruption allegations.
The Justice Mayor Wadyajena-chaired committee had asked the Tobacco Association of Zimbabwe (Taz) and Boka Tobacco Auction Floors to give evidence on their preparedness for the forthcoming tobacco marketing season that is set to officially commence next week.
However, when they presented their evidence, the tobacco growers associations, Taz in particular accused the TIMB board chairperson, Monica Chinamasa of being a conflicted individual to sit on the regulator’s board while she also represents farmers through the Zimbabwe National Framers Union.
They alleged that Chinamasa was in the habit of frustrating growers who belong to other associations in direct competition to her Zimbabwe National Farmers Union.
The farmers’ representatives also accused the TIMB of mismanaging funds meant for the refurbishment of forests destroyed by farmers when they process their tobacco for the market.
They also alleged that TIMB had unfairly distributed the $70 million facility extended to it by the Reserve bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to avail inputs to farmers by allegedly giving one unnamed contractor a whopping $10 million.
When it was TIMB’s time to respond to the allegations, Wadyajena and his committee felt that the tobacco marketing regulatory board had not adequately prepared for the meeting — a development that was deemed contemptuous by the legislators.
“You must take Parliament seriously because I see you are not prepared adequately despite the fact that you have been avoiding us after we called you to appear before us on more than two occasions now,” Wadyajena said.
“When you come next, TIMB will have to fund the sitting because we cannot burden taxpayers because of your failure to plan properly,” he added.
This was after TIMB chief executive officer Andrew Matibiri had given a narration of the organisation’s mandated and terms of reference in less than two minutes.
Wadyajena also did not take lightly Matibiri’s response with a laugh to allegations that TIMB had also abused $10 million from the RBZ $70 million inputs facility.
“Do your employers and the minister of Agriculture know that you are laughing at MPs when they are quizzing you about public funds? Do you think he will be happy?
“Where were you working before you joined TIMB?” a visibly angry Wadyajena asked.
This prompted Chinamasa to leap into Matibiri’s defence pleading with the committee to bear with him.
“It is not like we are laughing at the MPs, we are laughing at the figure we are being accused of having given to one contractor, it is shocking,” Chinamasa said.
In the end the committee requested that TIMB avails, when it next appears before the committee, documents including a letter that was purportedly written by former minister Joseph Made to extend the board’s term of office beyond the mandatory three years.
The committee also demanded that Chinamasa explains her involvement with the Zimbabwe National Framers Union that could constitute conflict of interest.
It also demanded that TIMB explains how it used the funds meant for afforestation that it collects from farmers.
“You must also provide information about how you funded the construction of your headquarters, donations you may have given to individuals and political parties and also how you have made use of the tobacco levy,” Wadyajena said.