Cotton Farmers in Zhombe bemoan the late payments of their 2020/2021 farming season output. A survey carried out by Community Voices Zimbabwe in Zhombe established that most farmers are disgruntled by the late payments such that it will need a miracle by cotton contractors to convince them to keep engaged in the production of the ‘white gold.’
One cotton farmer who only chose to be identified as Moyo said, “Even if one tries as a farmer to make any strategic plan, he/she can still suffer. As a cotton farmer l want to manage my day to day economic life however because of late payments of my money, l am still suffering.”
Moyo also added that he sold his more than 11 ‘white gold’ bales in June and to date no payment had been made thereby scuttling their plans for the 2021/2022 farming preparations. One female farmer who chose to be identified as MaSithole echoed the same sentiments highlighted by Moyo. “Cotton farming business was better during the colonial era than now as payments were done in real time through cheques.
“The money l am going to receive as a cotton farmer is good as nothing. It is good as change. Money changers have already devised a plan to reap where they did not sow. We have heard that they are already saying that by the time we receive our monies they want 2000 RTGS$ so that at least l get USD $10.Why are we not just paid in foreign currency as our cotton is exported out of the country in foreign currency not RTGS$? Inflation has become our enemy too”
Another farmer who spoke to Community Voices Zimbabwe identified as Tembo said that, “Kusidlisa nzima kodwa kuthiwa singabangabalimi – (We are finding it hard to make ends meet) . During 2011 this same time around l had already bought my sofas. Farmers who produce other crops besides cotton are now making us a laughing stock.”
Zhombe cotton farmers highlighted that one of the main problems that they were now facing is that schools have reopened and they have no money to pay fees. Also, they bemoaned the fact that the farming inputs were now being advertised at full swing to farmers who have their cotton money still tied up in Harare.
One cotton farmer who chose anonymity confided to Community Voices Zimbabwe that as cotton farmers they are given USD$10 upon delivery of a cotton bail that weighs over 150 Kgs as an advance and the rest of the money is then promised to be credited as EcoCash RTGS$. “The other sad thing is that there is no actual price for the ‘white gold’. We heard from grapevine that our cotton is going to be bought between USD$0.85 and USD$0.45 per kilogram,” said one cotton farmer who chose to be identified as Mhofu.
Another cotton farmer who chose to be identified as Joram Sithole said; “My money is going to come…l am not happy as a cotton farmer. l will stop cotton production. However, l have no other options except being enslaved by these cruel people”
A visit by this reporter at Zhombe Cottco buying site regardless of the rich history of cotton farming in Zhombe revealed a single container that is used as an administration office. The reluctance by the cotton company to revamp its on-site structure is no vain indication that they mean no permanent engagement with the community with the Grain Marketing Board with is just adjacent being a total contrast with its new look.
There was no scale on site. It was reported to have been taken to Kadoma for repairs. One Cottco worker who identified himself as Peniad Matemachani who works as a Clerk upon being quizzed on the late payments said, “l am not able to comment at local level but only the head office in Harare can.” Asked who exactly can comment on the issue of late payments the Cottco Zhombe Clerk said only the Managing Director can comment. However, he did not give this publication the said Managing Director`s contact details.
Community Voices Zimbabwe then visited Chief Gwesela at his homestead who had this to say, “What Cottco is doing is inhumane considering the economic situation that our cotton farmers find themselves in. Farmers are complaining every day. It is different from Grain Marketing Board.”