Connect with us

Support The NewsHawks

cottco scandal


Corruption-hit Cottco in fresh ZW$2.5bn scandal



THE Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco), currently smarting from a US$5.8 million corruption storm, has come under fire from farmers in remote parts of Gokwe South district who say the firm, which received ZW$2.5 billion from Treasury this year to pay for last season’s crop deliveries, has been using groceries to settle the debts instead of making cash payments.


The farmers said the practice has mostly been rampant in Makuchira village in Gokwe South as well as other remote areas that border the district with roads that lead to Nkayi as well as in Manoti and Sengwa. Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee chairperson and Gweru Urban MP Brian Dube said the swapping of cash for groceries was criminal abuse of office and fraudulent.

Together with Gokwe-Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena, Cottco managing director Pius Manamike and other company bosses Maxmore Njanji, Fortunate Maloyi and Chiedza Danha are out on bail waiting to be tried in a case in which they are accused of minting money amounting to US$5.8 million belonging to the ailing firm.

Since the end of last year, the government disbursed to Cottco a total of ZW$2.5 billion in four tranches so that it could clear outstanding payments of cotton delivered to its depots last season.

There were two tranches of ZW$500 million each and then there was the third one made in March of ZW$750 million with the balance cleared in April.

Cottco, which was privatised in 1994, is the largest cotton-buying company in the country with an 80% market share. It buys mostly from farmers in Gokwe and passes on the produce to the government. In peak years before the hyperinflationary levels of between 2005 and 2009, the company would buy as much as 80 000 tonnes of cotton from farmers.

 Farmers from remote parts of Gokwe South who spoke to The NewsHawks said while in other areas Cottco paid cotton producers using local currency, they were startled by being paid in groceries for their bales.

A farmer from Mukuchira village who preferred anonymity said: “After delivering 11 bales of cotton I was supposed to be paid about US$660 using their price of US$0.30 per kg because on average my bales weighed 200kgs. Last year we could not be paid and we were promised that we will get the money this season. I was shocked when I went to collect my money last month to find out that it had been converted to groceries like sugar, cooking oil, soap and cereals.”

 “I was told to either take it or leave it. What pained me the most is that I discovered that prices of these commodities had in fact been inflated to justify the small quantities I was given,” said the farmer.

Other farmers said the challenge with the grocery payments would be their failure to prepare for next season and meet living expenses like school fees for their children on top of healthcare needs.

“In short, we will not be going back to the farms next season. We were dealt a big blow. We won’t even talk about how our children will suffer,” said another farmer.

 Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya revealed on 13 June this year that for this season’s purchase of cotton by Cottco, there would be a new payment model which would see farmers getting US$30 per bale in cash and the rest in Zimdollars. In the past it was US$10 per bale. However, investigations by The NewsHawks revealed that farmers in Gokwe South continued to get groceries for the value of their cotton instead of the promised cash.

Victoria Mtomba, the Cottco spokesperson, requested written questions on the matter and these were sent to her via social media platform WhatsApp on 7 September.

She acknowledged receipt of the questions and promised to return responses the following morning.

On Thursday afternoon she had not responded and did not answer calls until her mobile number became unavailable.

Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka did not answer calls or respond to messages.

PAC chairperson MP Dube said: “Farmers are adults and know how to use their money. The perceived barter trade of cotton with groceries is unlawful, abusive, and a serious insult to the hardworking farmers.

“Whoever pocketed those US dollars and then went into shops to swipe RTGS for groceries was unjustifiably enriched and must compensate farmers. There is a clear disrespect of the payment methods and trade laws that exhibits cruelty and heartlessness. Remember, farmers only get paid once a year. Does it mean farmers did not have other plans with their money except to buy food?

“Whoever is involved in this conduct is unpatriotic and is fighting against the gains of the liberation struggle and the reform programme. They are an enemy of Zimbabwe and dangerous.”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *