Source: Corruption rocks auction floors | The Herald July 19, 2016
Brenda Ziga Herald Reporter
Corruption has hit tobacco auction floors as buyers are taking advantage of desperate farmers by buying their crop for a song only to resell it at favourable prices, while leaf checkers are demanding money to peg bales at favourable prices.
A survey conducted by The Herald showed that class B buyers who were banned from auction floors, in a bid to arrest corruption, have resurfaced as holders of class A buyers’ licences.
According to the TIMB marketing rules, an A class buyer means, a buyer who buys on auction floors during the selling season a minimum quantity of tobacco as is determined by the board, and does not re-sell on auction floors during that selling season more than five percent of the tobacco he/she has bought.
A class B buyer means any other buyer who buys and re-sells tobacco on the auction floors for speculative purposes after re-handling, and does not re-sell in excess of the mass purchased.
Some of the buyers who registered as class A buyers are buying tobacco from farmers at the auction floors and reselling the it to other buyers at higher prices, while some leaf checkers are demanding money from farmers in order for them to peg their tobacco at higher prices.
Marondera farmer Mr Darlington Matsika said, he sold his tobacco last week and was surprised to find tobacco bales with his grower’s number reappearing last Friday at the floors.
“I delivered 118 bales at Premier Tobacco Auction Floors on Monday and the first batch was bought on Wednesday, the second batch was bought on Thursday and the third batch on Friday.
“I was surprised to see those bales at the auction floor today (Friday) being bought at $4,60 per kilogramme, while they were bought from me at $1,30 per kg,” he said.
Mr Matsika said he identified his bales with his grower’s number that was on the hessian sacks.
“I first identified the crop, then I had to recheck, and they were really my bales. I then checked the grower’s number, which I had written on the hessian sacks, but the bales were being sold with a different grower’s number which belonged to Kudzai Rimayi,” he said.
A Guruve farmer, Mr Tichaona Munyatwa, was on Friday approached by leaf manager Besel Tambura and two unidentified men, who had no identification cards at Tobacco Sales Floor who demanded money for the bales to be sold at higher prices.
The Herald witnessed the entire incident.
“I was approached by the leaf checker and he asked for $50 for the three bales that I have, so that they will be bought at higher prices.
“I used to sell at Zimbabwe Leaf Tobacco Company, but the company closed yesterday (last Thursday) and they asked us to move our bales and sell them to any auction floor. That is why I came to sell my bales at TSF,” he said.
A TSF official, who refused to be named, said Besel Tambura worked for a new company, which was operating at their premises, and was officially registered by TIMB.
“It is TIMB’s responsibility to register companies and the leaf manager, Besel Tambura, works for a small company that was recently registered by TIMB,” he said.
TIMB public relations manager Mr Isheunesu Moyo last week said the board’s classification process was consistent and TIMB was not party to the corrupt activities.
“This is a peculiar case and we are keen to go out in full force to eliminate corruption from the industry. TIMB attended to the farmer and he is being updated on the investigations. The case will definitely set an example to anyone who may contemplate doing anything similar.”
Mr Moyo said Tambura was made to write a report.
“The matter is being investigated. If he is found guilty, he will be suspended from appearing at all tobacco floors.”
He urged farmers to report such issues to the responsible authorities.
“We urge any farmer approached to report such matters to TIMB and other responsible authorities such as the Police and anti-corruption department.
“We will investigate on the alleged issues and make sure we leave no stone unturned.”