Chaos rocks tobacco industry

(Last Updated On: December 22, 2022)

MOSES MATENGA

 

Parliament is probing chaos in the tobacco industry that has so far exposed how companies were engaging in murky deals, borrowing and abusing loans from the government that they now are failing to pay back, prejudicing the State of millions of United States dollars.

Several companies including Central Leaf Tobacco, Bindura Tobacco among others have since been dragged before the Lands, Agriculture, Climate, Water and Fisheries Parliamentary portfolio committee chaired by Gokwe-Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena.

Boka Tobacco Floors and three other companies have been suspended by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) for several transgressions with Parliament threatening to come hard on tobacco companies that are failing to pay back millions of dollars they received from the Tobacco Input Credit Scheme facility.

It emerged that several companies that received money under the programme but are now failing to pay back.

“Where we have issues of companies benefitting from State funds and refusing to pay, we then have to exercise our oversight role as Parliament,” Wadyajena said.

“We will come hard on tobacco companies perpetuating this. We asked for documents from you (one of the firms) and you said you were committed elsewhere. When we offered to give you Wi-Fi you said you will take it and you then claimed your iPhone has problems. It only shows you are not being truthful and there is an element that you are trying to deceive us,” Wadyajena said while threatening to charge the said company.

Central Leaf Tobacco also faced the wrath of the MPs who yesterday accused the companies’ Finance Manager Godwin Katokwe of lying under oath as he kept changing statements before the committee.

MPs pressured Katokwe to apologise for lying under oath to which he did, exposing that he was misleading the house.

So severe is the chaos in the tobacco sector that has seen several companies operating without licenses while engaging in side marketing.

MPs accused the TIMB acting Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel Matsvaire of being too lenient on companies engaged in unscrupulous activities and misleading the committee that Central Leaf Tobacco had allegedly ceased operations and nowhere to be found.

Despite Matsvaire’s claims, the company emerged in Parliament yesterday much to anger of the MPs who said there were raising eyebrows on the operations of the company and the capacity of the TIMB to account for several issues.

TIMB also claimed last week that Central Leaf Tobacco had written to them saying they were facing challenges to recover loans from farmers.

Wadyajena quizzed Matsvaire why he was claiming they had failed to locate Central Leaf Tobacco and accused the TIMB acting CEO of lying.

 

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