A tobacco company, Voedsel Tobacco International, has once again in the limelight for short-changing local farmers after one of its employees allegedly tried to defraud a local farmer.
The Standard, working in collaboration with Information for Development Trust, exposed Voedsel for underpaying tobacco farmers contracted by it.
The publication reports that in the current case, Reliance Hamandishe, a 29-year-old farmer, claimed that a company’s employee sought to cheat him out of more than US$2 000 through fraudulent means.
The employee, Robert Mahufe, is brother to Innocent Mahufe, the Voedsel chairperson.
Hamandishe said he opted to be contracted by Voedsel to grow and sell his tobacco in the 2021-2022 farming season but due to the company’s delays in processing the inputs, he eventually self-financed his tobacco project.
Hamandishe, a university graduate who is still struggling to land a job, sold his produce through Voedsel, which was promising better prices for tobacco.
He argued that Voedsel withheld the US$2 281 that he had realised from his crop with the company insisting that he had received a loan from the company. Hamandishe said:
They withheld all my money under the term ‘Voedsel recoveries’.
I didn’t know what this term meant so I went to enquire from one of their offices, only to be told that I had taken a loan from them and they were recovering the money.
I was shocked because the last time I remembered trying to take a loan from them I hit a brick wall.
It is reported that Robert had allegedly used the details that he had obtained from Hamandishe to make a fraudulent loan claim against an account he created for the farmer.
Hamandishe was paid after media inquiries and his own social media campaign in which he revealed details about the alleged fraud.
When contacted, Robert denied ever defrauding Hamandishe saying “the owner of the company is my brother and I can’t defraud my brother’s company.”
Chelesani Moyo, the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) public relations officer, said the board suspends rogue tobacco firms.
Contract farming is an attractive option to local farmers who cannot access funding from banks and other sources.