By Anna Chibamu
ZANU PF Gokwe-Nembudziya MP, Justice Mayor Wadyajena fears the ruling party is at risk of losing over 1.6 million votes at the ballot box in 2023 from disgruntled cotton farmers unhappy over non-payment of their crop delivered to cotton merchants.
Presenting a report on the 2020 marketing season in the House of Assembly this week, Wadyajena who is the Lands Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairperson said over 400 000 cotton farmers were failing to access their payments from the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) trapped in the company’s Econet merchant lines.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe last month suspended “bulk lines” leaving over $300 million frozen in Cottco’s Econet merchant lines leaving cotton farmers unpaid, and may who live hand to mouth in a desperate situation requiring urgent redress.
However, Wadyajena sees the non-payment of cotton farmers as a move that is frustrating cotton farmers who are also Zanu PF supporters.
Cotton is grown in areas such as Gokwe, Muzarabani, and Mbire, which are traditional Zanu PF strongholds.
“About 400 000 disillusioned and marginalised households throughout the country with an average of four adult members per household could have very real consequences in the ballot box,” Wadyajena said while presenting his report.
“We saw first-hand the financial and material hardships faced by farmers as a result of recent policies and decisions. There is a sense that the Executive and the broader government are out of touch, and unconcerned with the suffering of its most vulnerable citizens. The government would be ill-advised to overlook these sentiments,” he said.
“Policy inconsistency amongst different government departments is the major cause for distrust of the financial sector. There is no clear policy framework from the government on how to manage the policy consistency.”
Wadyajena’s committee also made recommendations to government ministries and the RBZ.
“Some interventions need to be made, forthwith, to correct grave policy oversights made in recent days. It is unacceptable that no explanation has been offered to mostly poor and vulnerable farmers who have been stranded without pay on account of the decision to suspend bulk mobile lines.
“The shortchanging of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens could not be condemned more categorically than by the committee. Farmers have lost confidence in Treasury’s handling of their payments to the extent that even if Prof. Mthuli Ncube were to employ his famed ‘Sophisticated Algorithm Formula’, the farmers’ appetite for the Zimbabwe dollar without would most likely be rejected unless there is an unfair aggressive mobilisation and manipulation,” the Wadyajena said.
The committee also recommended to Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri to review the price of cotton.
The committee said the RBZ should absorb the cost of account openings and ATM/Debit cards issuance for the affected farmers and to waiver charges for transferring money from farmers accounts into their registered e-wallet accounts and within 48 hours of presenting the report to Parliament, unfreeze the $300million trapped in Cottco’s Econet merchant lines, and pay farmers.