By MUKOSELA KASALWE
SMALL scale tobacco growers have protested the sale of a processing plant along Mungwi Road by the Tobacco Association of Zambia (TAZ) without their knowledge.
The farmers feel cheated because the factory which they had entrusted with TAZ was allegedly bought by a private individual who was at the time a senior employee of the association.
The tobacco growers said at a press briefing in Lusaka yesterday, through Saidi Phiri, a farmer from Central Province, that the new company was still using the logo of the old firm.
“We find it interesting that at that particular time, the General Manager for TAZ by the name of Van Der Vinne claimed to have bought the factory with TAZ claiming to own shares within the factory which property was entrusted to them by the Tobacco farmers countrywide.
“These two entities, Tombwe Processing Limited and Tobacco Association of Zambia share the same logo. As indigenous tobacco farmers we feel cheated with this purported transaction,” Mr Phiri said.
When contacted for a comment, Mr Der Vinne said he would get back to this reporter when he got back to the office, after earlier requesting for a press query which was forwarded and receipt acknowledged.
Mr Phiri also claimed that all the Zambian indigenous tobacco farmers had been pushed out of the factory ownership by the association that he said should have protected their interests at the time.
He called on government to investigate how the processing plant which was entrusted in the hands of TAZ was allegedly transferred into private hands without the knowledge of small scale farmers.
Mr Phiri also claimed that TAZ, which was originally formed to represent the interests of small scale farmers in the tobacco industry, had become a tool for oppressing them as it had been taken over by commercial farmers.
“Today, TAZ is constituted of 90% white commercial farmer membership,” he said.
And Chilufya Chishala, a tobacco grower from Eastern province, said TAZ, working with named tobacco firms, had been going round the country to mislead farmers into signing a petition to reject the two percent levy remitted by farmers.
“In an effort to trick the farmers, we have had encounters where our fellow farmers are being misled that the Statutory Instrument (Sis) will disorient the industry. This is not true! As farmers, we are able to read and understand! We also know what is happening in other countries that are economically better than the Zambian Tobacco industry due to tight and fair regulations,” he said.