Thursday, May 30, 2024

Tobacco Farmers Threaten to Report Merchants to Police For Theft

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MEMBERS of the community celebrate the handover of a health post by Japan Tobacco International (JTI) at Dwankhozi in Chipangali constituency

Tobacco farmers in the country have threatened to report the tobacco merchants to the police on allegations theft.

And Tobacco Board of Zambia (TBZ) Chief Executive Officer James Kasongo says it is shameful that some government officials are supporting merchants in their continued abrogation of the law.

Speaking during a stakeholders meeting held at Southern Sun hotel in Lusaka, Tuesday, the farmers said the behaviour of merchants that have been holding on to the 2% contribution can only be described as theft as the money belongs to the government.

Contributing to the meeting, Chilufya Chishala, a farmer from Eastern Province said if government is not willing to enforce the law on the merchants, the farmers will be forced to do so because what the merchants were doing was nothing less than stealing from the poor Zambians.

He said the 2% contribution does not belong to the merchants for them to decide when to remit to government

He notes that farmers who are the owners of the money will now be forced to report the merchants to the police to ensure that the money is recovered.

Chishala also bemoaned the lack of support from law makers saying the debates in Parliament are just about infrastructure when they should also be talking about how to raise money for the much-needed infrastructure of which tobacco growing can greatly contribute.

Chishala has since demanded that the merchants pay the money before Friday and that government should quickly move in and confiscate their passports before they leave for their Christmas holidays in their countries of origin.

And Mr. Chishala has cautioned some merchants against interfering with the country’s established institutions like the Ministry of Justice by wanting to manipulate officers through provision of wrong information to work to their advantage.

He says the Ministry of Justice should hence not entertain them as there are already laws that guide the running of affairs of tobacco in the country.

Another farmer, Esnart Mushiba observed that the insolent behaviour by the merchants was as a result of them coming from the West.

Mushiba, a freedom fighter, said the farmers were tired of singing the same song about merchants disrespecting them and that if it takes them marching half naked to State House for government to act then they will do so.

“If it means us matching naked to State House so that Government can hear us, we shall do so. This is unacceptable!” She charged adding that merchants have shown that they will continue to disrespect government and TBZ noting that their behaviour cannot be condoned in their countries of origin.

And TBZ CEO said it is worrisome how merchants “had so much power to the extent of refusing to pay money which does not belong to them”.

He said the Ministry of Agriculture has reminded the merchants at several meetings to remit the contributions from famers but that they continue to be adamant.

Mr. Kasongo said it was disheartening to note that even when the concern of TBZ is that of government, some officials within the system seem to be siding with the merchants hence giving them powers thereby disadvantaging the farmer and government at large.

He said the revenue which they are refusing to remit to government is money which should be used towards the development of the country.

Tobacco merchants have been boycotting stakeholders’ meetings meant iron out the challenges in the industry and opted to hold private meetings with some Ministry officials on several occasions.

On the 2% contribution deducted from the farmer at the point of sale, the merchants continue to play hide and seek with government despite being directed to pay the money both verbally and in writing.

3 COMMENTS

  1. That’s why there is law and order. We are only getting one side of the story here so if these so called merchants are wrong take them to court and compel them to pay. Unless if they are in the right and you are scared of the court process which will rule in their favour.

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