Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

***The views expressed in the articles published on this website DO NOT necessarily express the views of the Commercial Farmers' Union.***

Of the golden leaf, greenback and sex workers

Of the golden leaf, greenback and sex workers

Saturday, 03 April 2010 19:13

TWELVE years ago, war veterans went on a shopping binge after President Robert Mugabe was forced to dole out Z$50 000 to each of them as compensation for their role in the liberation struggle. They splashed money
recklessly on all manner of luxuries. Some went to the ridiculous extent of buying cabbages to feed their cattle.

Predictably, the cash quickly ran out leaving many sinking back into obscurity and pervasive poverty.

Fast forward to present day, the “war vets” have now reincarnated as “varimi” (small-scale farmers) after benefiting from President Robert Mugabe’s widely discredited land reform programme.

They have bounced back on the scene as small-scale tobacco farmers who bring their produce to the auction floors in Harare.

This new breed of “war vets” is loaded with cash and is evidently willing to buy anything as long as it has got a price tag.

After visiting Boka Tobacco Auction Floors and Burley Marketing Zimbabwe (BMZ) in Harare last week one gets a sense of de javu all over again.

The farmers have fitted perfectly into this void left by the war vets.
But they are sitting ducks and they are at the mercy of some wily vendors out to make a fast buck.

The new farmers scramble for Buddie starter packs which cost US$2 each on the formal market but go for US$17 at the auction floors.

Car traders are also cashing in on the gullibility of the new farmers outside the floors.

A 1995 Mazda B1800 truck is going for US$5 000 while a 1992 Mercedes Benz SE320 is listed as a “giveaway” for US$10 000.

To an ordinary man in the street, this is daylight robbery, but the “varimi” see it as a good bargain.

With vendors invading the place from all over the country, competition for space has reached its peak.

They are competing for space with graves on the periphery of Granville Cemetery that is adjacent to the auction floors.

The Harare City Council has moved in to peg vending sheds at the location for a fee of US$25 (administration) and US$70 monthly rentals. Even established banks and companies such as Dore & Pitt, Farm & City Centre
have also set base there.

Farmers who spoke to The Standard last week said delays in the payment of their tobacco left them at the mercy of vendors.

Veronica Madhume (51) from Rusape said she had been at the auction floors for some days waiting for her produce to be bought.

“I am hungry and if anyone comes to me with a bottle of Coke and is selling it for US$5, I will buy it because I do not know how to move around Harare.

“The Easter Holiday is almost here and once I get my money I will hire transport back to my land no matter what fare they charge me.

“I just want to return home because I am tired of sleeping on concrete floors and the mosquitoes are just too much.”

Tobacco farmer Luke Mugwisi (38) says house owners in the nearby suburb of Glen Norah were now taking advantage of the situation.

“As you can see there are not enough toilets and bathrooms here so some farmers go to Glen Norah where they are charged US$2 for a bath,” he said.

“The authorities must provide mobile toilets before an outbreak of diseases here.”

Agnes Marowa of Centenary said most farmers do their ablutions in the bushy area just outside the premises of the auction floors.

Just a few metres away, vendors could be seen serving food to hungry farmers even though there was no running water.

Chances of the farmers contracting water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid are very high considering the absence of enough running water at a place where thousands gather every day.

They sleep in the open, or under any available shelter like verandas and in cars.

But a security guard, who mans the premises, said at least 100 people were arrested every single day for pick-pocketing, stealing and at times muggings during the night.

“I think the police should deploy more plainclothes police officers here because a lot of farmers are going back home empty-handed,” said the security guard.

“The thieves are so daring that they at times challenge us.”

Prostitution has also become rampant at the two auction floors.

Even young girls in their teens are commuting from as far as Chitungwiza, Norton, Hatcliffe and Epworth in search of clients.

They have a unique way of identifying potential clients who can easily splash out money. “I don’t just go for anybody,” said a 24-year-old woman who identified herself as Elleanor.

“I go for those with huge jackets, a bag and usually with hats because I know they are farmers and have the money to pay me.”

They charge an average of US$30 for a “quickie” (short-time) and between US$100 and US$150 for the whole night.

This, health officials at Hopley said, has resulted in the high incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at the compound as most of the farmers are quite happy to forego the use of condoms on “beautiful city

Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chief executive officer Andrew Matibiri referred all questions regarding the conditions at auction floors to Zitec, which runs the place.

Efforts to get a comment from Zitec last week were fruitless.



New Posts: