Farm Workers Eat Empty Promises

He was angry to see others celebrating while he and his family spent Christmas on an empty stomach.

“We are still to get our salaries for the past six months. We had been assured to get it before Christmas. I have nothing for my family. It is embarrassing. I cannot explain this to my four old daughter.’’

His employer is a new farmer who got resettled in 2004. He took over 25 workers who had nowhere to go after the white farmer was forcibly evicted from his farm during the chaotic land invasions.

‘’During the last three years we understood his plea due to unstable economy and last year we had better tobacco crop that he sold in April. He bought fertilizer for the new crop in the field and we anticipated that he will pay us but by now nothing has been done’’ said Jairosi.

According to Jairosi, the workers last saw their boss in August at the farm when he promised them that he was going ‘’’to spoil them for Christmas’’. Since then he has been sending his brother and wife to monitor farm progress in preparation for the tobacco planted in early December.

’We have six hectares of tobacco and it will be ready for curing in February,” he added.

Some resettled farmers have been labelled ‘’cell-phone or remote’’ farmers by President Robert Mugabe because they never go to the farms to see what is on the ground.

Although farm workers’ salaries are pegged at below US$40 a month, some farmers are not affording to pay that, leaving farm workers desperate.

‘’One of our neighbours who is into vegetable farming used to hire us as temporary workers and that helped us financially. Now this temporary job is no long available. I cannot raise money to buy my family groceries or clothes.”

One resettled farmer said: “The US dollar is elusive and I cannot afford to pay workers salaries. When things work out for the better, I will pay them but now it is hard for us.’’

“The bank authorities did not want my farm house as surety as it has no market value and I cannot get funding anywhere to pay the workers’ salaries,” he added.

Meanwhile Christmas celebrations for Hurungwe communal farmers were dampened when a hailstorm destroyed an estimated 40 hectares of tobacco. The farmers around Karambazungu area, Chief Nyamhunga situated about 70 kilometres north-west of Karoi town were beginning to make preparation to plant again.

‘The hailstorm started around 5 in the afternoon and it destroyed my tobacco in two hectare plot. I am hurt as I had done my best to ensure best quality’ said Pattison Chabeta.

He battled to control tears as he spoke. He said many villagers lost between a hectare and four hectares of tobacco crop which was not insured.

Although there was no immediate assessment on the exact amount the destroyed tobacco was worth, it was estimated that it was worth several thousands of US dollars.

“I have to plant other crops otherwise I stand to lose out financially’ said Thomas Sigauke.