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Zanu-PF fights delay wheat payments

by Staff reporter
06 Nov 2021 at 06:15hrs | Views
PAYMENTS to wheat farmers for the 2021 season are likely to be delayed after millers, who had pledged $5,5 billion to complement government funds, were scandalised by a parliamentary report which left them exasperated.

The report, by the portfolio committee on Lands, Agriculture, and Fisheries Portfolio Committee, alleged that millers abused a US$28,6 million they were granted by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to import wheat between 2014 and 2019.

The report, which sources sourced said was tabled in the National Assembly Thursday without the full blessing of the committee, has since triggered a massive storm after indications the matter had become highly politicised.

It specifically targeted the lead negotiator for the wheat import deal, Tafadzwa Musarara, who chairs the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ). It recommends that police must arrest him for the alleged abuse.

Interestingly, sources said, Musarara is squaring up against Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe for the Zanu-PF Mashonaland Central provincial chairmanship. Kazembe, whom sources say is close to the committee's chairperson, Justice Mayor Wadyajena, is in charge of the police.

Documents seen by, corroborated by accounts from sources, suggest that the wheat was imported using funds sourced by private millers, who then applied for foreign currency from the central bank in terms of its allocation regulations.

The documents also indicate that all companies that were allocated foreign currency did acknowledge the receipt, and fully acquitted for the funds.

For instance, the RBZ wrote to GMAZ on March 12, 2019, informing millers that it was satisfied with the acquittals.

"We write to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 06 March 2019 regarding the acquittal of payments for wheat. Please kindly proceed to furnish your bankers with the original bills of entry to enable them to consider the acquittal of the payments on our CEBAS system in line with current exchange control administrative arrangements," the letter, signed by an F Musendu, director of exchange control at the RBZ, reads.

A source in the milling industry said: "These are private funds and the wheat was bought by companies which mobilised funds in local currency and later sourced foreign currency. The current fiasco has greatly demoralised millers and there are indications that they may withhold their funds meant to pay workers," the source said.

"What has surprised everyone is that the money was sourced and used by all millers involved and now the committee recommends the arrest of Musarara who did not even handle the money.

"The timing of the report is suspicious in that it comes at a time Musarara and Kazembe are fighting for control of the province. Remember his committee sat in 2019 and only produces the report now when elections for provincial posts are around the corner," the source said.

"It's a fight by Kazembe to cripple Musarara financially, but he is prioritising self-interest at the expense of the company because even banks are now jittery and say they cannot proceed with the arrangement. The farmers will suffer. Their payments were being processed and were supposed to be paid within seven days," another source said.

Documents also show the RBZ cleared the funds and the participating banks, Metbank and Ecobank also acquitted for the funds.

A source said: "There is proof that milling companies acknowledged the receipt of the funds and these are: Alpha Grain, Edurate Investments, Blue Ribbon, National Foods, and Wheat Star among others."

Documents also show the wheat was transported in three ships which carried a total of 70 000 tonnes. The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority also cleared the importation of the wheat which came at a time the country was hit by a serious shortage of flour.

"One wonders who will be the complainant in this case because all parties, ZIMRA, RBZ, and others are satisfied by our undertakings," the source added.

Source - NewZimbabwe
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