MPs chide govt minister over govt ‘stealing’ from tobacco farmers

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By Anna Chibamu

FINANCE deputy minister Clemence Chiduwa was on Wednesday grilled by parliamentarians on why government was paying tobacco farmers in both foreign and local currency instead of the United States dollars as is prescribed within national policies.

MPs demanded that the payment system in two currencies must not continue in this coming season because that was daylight robbery by the state.

Chiduwa however denied that, telling MPs there was no new policy in the payment system.

He said the splitting of foreign currency and RTGS in making payments was going to continue using interbank rates.

Harare East MP, Tendai Biti expressed concern over alleged ill-treatment of tobacco farmers by government after incurring high costs of acquiring inputs often in US dollars or in local currency pegged against black market rates.

“There is no law that allows Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to expropriate the farmers’ foreign currency. We want farmers to get their raw foreign currency,” said Biti amid cheers by fellow MDC MPs.

Chiduwa was adamant government policy shall guide the process.

“Government policy will be followed and that is it,” he said.

Biti reminded the deputy minister that policy must follow the law.

The former finance minister said there was no law that allows government to pay the farmers in two currencies for the same product.

Statutory Instrument 142/2019 banned the use of foreign currency in domestic transactions, but Zimbabweans have defiantly continued to use the US dollar and the South African rand as the local unit keeps losing value.

“Policy must follow the law,” Biti said.

“There is no such law. Farmers cannot break the law.”

MDC MP Shakespear Hamauswa also queried apparent government double standards when authorities pay farmers in local currency while not doing the same with some fuel dealers who are given forex to purchase fuel for resell it in the same currency.