Last week I visited Mhondongori (Ward 5) in Runde in rural Zvishavane. We were having a dialogue on public participation in Community Share Ownership Trust Schemes established under the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act. During these conversations, an elderly lady requested that she ask a question. The question was decidedly off-topic but gravely important.
Her question was ‘ Mukoma Gilbert, ndinechibage changu chakatorwa ne GMB gore rapera muna June, ndanga ndichidawo kuziva kuti tichabhadharwa rinhi?’ (I delivered maize to the Grain Marketing Board in June 2014, do you have any idea when I will be paid?).
I had heard that GMB owes farmers across the country. But you do not realise the import of this situation unless and until you begin talking to the affected farmers. I asked follow up questions to this lady and the community members and realised that there were many that were affected. One gentleman delivered 16 tonnes to the GMB. The price they were selling the maize for was $390/tonne. He has $6 240.00 locked up with the GMB for almost a year. Another delivered 5 tonnes. The elderly lady that asked the question delivered 1 tonne. Yet the fact that she had not been paid meant that she is struggling to buy basic food necessitates and pay school fees for her child. These farmers had to pay for their own transport costs to deliver the maize. The gentleman who delivered 5 tonnes used $200 for transporting the maize. These are farmers that have not necessarily benefit from the GMB inputs scheme.
This state of affairs is certainly not made easy by the poor and or erratic rainfall across much of the country. These farmers face hunger. Hunger made worse by the fact that the safety net of proceeds from the previous harvest is simply not there.
I could not give her an answer. The life of any farmer is not easy (I know, my father is a farmer) but the life of a subsistence rural farmer is incredibly tough. I do not know when GMB/ our government plans to pay these farmers for what they worked so hard for in very difficult circumstances. What I do know is that this is not just. It is criminal.