Contractual row over banana farming in Chipinge escalates

…farmers accuse Chipinge RDC and Matanuska of being bedfellows

By  Tafadzwa Muranganwa

Smallholder famers in Mutema Irrigation Scheme in Chipinge have expressed disgruntlement over what they dubbed ‘an unholy alliance between Chipinge Rural District Council and banana producer,Matanuska to exploit them through dubious banana contract farming agreements.

Investigations by this publication reveal that the small holder banana farmers entered into a deal  with Matanuska a few years back but the farmers found it too exploitative and hence they sought legal services to renegotiate the contract.

“In 2012 we got funding from USAID to support banana farming and we got Matanuska as a technical partner providing marketing and other relevant services.

“However ,over the years we have felt that the  deal is exploitative such that we had to find legal service from law firm , Mhungu and Associates to renegotiate  a win-win contractual agreement, ” revealed one farmer who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation.

After learning of this development, the Chipinge Rural District Council  spearheaded the creation of a committee to spearhead the agreement but according to some of the banana farmers there is an undue interference from the local authority and Matanuska .

“What is obtaining now is that after the Chipinge Rural District Council got wind of what we are planning he then mooted the idea of setting up a committee which would  represent us when we meet Matanuska.

“We had welcomed the idea and held  the elections and  we dutifully elected those whom we believed would represent us well,”said another farmer .

What has irked most of the smallholder banana  farmers is that the elections have been nullified because one of the council bosses’ preferred choice  lost the election.

“The committee chair elections were won by one  Mr Nelson  Mwakayitechi but the local authority is interfering in the internal affairs of Mutema Irrigation scheme through its social services officer Mr Mudodo who wanted to make sure his girlfriend Jennifer Dzambo wins the election at all costs .

“Chipinge RDC through Mudodo wants to subvert the elected leadership to serve the interests of the company,”reads  a text in a Whatsapp group of the farmers gleaned by this reporter.

Chipinge RDC is in an unholy alliance with Matansuka Private Limited to oppress and exploit farmers in Mutema banana contract farming

The farmers in Mutema Irrigation scheme through support from USAID in 2012  engaged in small scale banana contract farming. The farmers worked with Matanuska private Limited as a technical partner to provide marketing and other relevant services.

The relationship between the farmers and the company was guided by the contract which the farmers feel was exploitative and have seek legal assistance from Mhungu and Associates to renegotiate the win win contractual agreement.

On the 21 of April 2021 the local authority working in cahoots with the company called for an election of the committee leadership to spearhead the project. The contracts are negotiated by these committees and the election was tightly contested between a losing Zanu PF council candidate for ward 3 Jennifer Dzambo was company and council preferred candidate against the elected Mr Nelson Mwakayitechi. The local authority is interfering in the internal affairs of Mutema Irrigation scheme through its social services officer Mr Mudodo who wanted to make sure his girlfriend Jennifer Dzambo win the election at all costs .Chipinge RDC through Mudodo wants to subvert the elected leadership to serve the interests of the company.

The farmers have elected its leadership to spearhead contract negotiations with assistance of the legal practitioner to create a win win situations and district Agritex officer Chagwesha, Naume Mayakayaka and Chief Executive Officer Chipinge RDC Blessing Mamvosha are working with the company to continue exploit the marginalised farmers for their selfish interests.