TIMB ordered to cancel licences for tobacco companies owing farmer

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By Anna Chibamu

PARLIAMENT has ordered Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) chief executive officer, Maxwell Gudu, to cancel operating licences for two companies which are owing farmers and transporters for last year’s crop if they fail to appear before its committee in two weeks.

The companies, Voedesel and Sub-Sahara Private (Ltd), were given a two-week ultimatum to appear before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture, Water and Fisheries to explain why they have not paid the farmers.

The committee’s chairperson, Justice Mayor Wadyajena, said the decision to ask the TIMB to revoke the companies’ licenses was informed by the fact that they had given inadmissible excuses.

“We wrote letters to companies that are owing farmers and transporters to appear before this committee. These are Sub-Sahara and Voedesel. Voedesel confirmed last week that it was coming for this oral evidence hearing, but yesterday we received communication to the effect that the company executives were in Europe for a Tobacco Expo. The letter was just written that we are tied up in the month of May. Which year? We however assumed this May, though. They went on to say they could avail themselves to parliament in July because they are so busy,” Wadyajena said.

“This morning, Sub-Sahara confirmed that they were not available for the hearing. I am sure we have notified you (TIMB) that parliament business takes precedence except for the president. May the regulator (TIMB) explain to members how we move forward and explain why we do not have these companies here today,” Wadyajena said.

Mt Darwin MP and a member of the committee, Tendai Nyabani, demanded that the executives, who are said to be attending the Zimbabwe-Europe Tobacco Expo in Hungary, be represented by other company representatives.

“Since the regulator is here, I think he should go back and bring those company representatives here, not in May or July. We want them here. They cannot be allowed to buy tobacco if they have not paid arrears for the last tobacco season. This is not good,” Nyabani said.

Wadyajena then ordered the companies to come to parliament in two weeks.

“These companies must avail themselves here in two weeks, failure to do so, we will ask you as the regulator to cancel their licences,” he added.

According to previous parliament committee hearings, Voedesel has been suspended before for failure to pay tobacco farmers.

In a statement, Sub Sahara Tobacco managing director, a G. Mangundu, said they can only appear before the committee in June.

“We have noted the agenda of the meeting and in order for us to respond to the inquiry as requested, we kindly ask you to provide the details of the farmers, transporters or service providers that allege we have not paid them so that we verify and reconcile with our records,” Mangundu said.

“We further kindly ask you for rescheduling with our engagement of yourselves as we are also scheduled to be part of the exhibiters at the World Tobacco Expo in Bulgaria. We will be leaving on the 9th of May 2022 for stand construction and the expo will run from 18 of May to 19th of May 2022. From the 20th of May to June 06, 2022, we will be having meetings with clients and following up on potential clients from the exhibition. We shall be departing Bulgaria on the 7th of June 2022 and will arrive in Zimbabwe on the 8th of June. With your indulgence, we will only be available on the 10th of June for the meeting with the committee,”  Mangundu said in a statement.