BY NHAU MANGIRAZI
A COLD war is looming between some tobacco transporters and Voedsel Tobacco International over non-payment for services rendered.
Disgruntled transporters say they have not been paid for services rendered since April this year when the tobacco season kicked off. They accuse the tobacco company of insincerity.
Transporters from Mvurwi, Rusape, Hurungwe and Guruve are the hardest hit.
The transporters were hired to collect tobacco from farmers “for free”with the company settling the bills on behalf of farmers.
‘‘Besides the contractual obligation by Voedsel to pay us after tobacco sales, they never provided fuel for our outreach trips to rural communities where we collected tobacco on their behalf,’’ a Hurungwe transporter, who declined to be named, said.
Voedsel reportedly owes 15 transporters about US$61 500, according to a leaked document, with one of the transporters owed US$11 600.
A transporter from Mvurwi, who transported 72 bales of tobacco, said he has not paid for the services,
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‘‘We have had too many empty promises from company officials,” he said.
In May, Zimbabwe Republic Police riot and dog section teams were deployed after farmers and transporters staged a demonstration at the company premises in Karoi over non-payment for the golden leaf delivery.
Transporters allege that Voedsel managing director Innocent Mahufe has not been forthcoming to deal with the issues.
“Mahufe does not pick calls and we have lost hope of getting paid. It is frustrating that such a big company can abuse poor transporters by not paying them what is due to them. There is a lot of exploitation in the tobacco industry,’’ another farmer said.
Mahufe refused to answer calls from NewsDay, requesting text messages which he had not respond to a the time of going to print.
But Tennyson Hwandi, a finance officer for the company on Thursday claimed that the farmers and transporters had been paid.
‘‘Good evening boss, all the transporters were paid their dues except for those who misrepresented where they took their tobacco from, so it is still under investigation,’’ Hwandi said in a written response.
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