Mutema banana farmers and Matanuska end contractual row

By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

There was a huge sigh of relief for some banana farmers in Chipinge’s Mutema Irrigation Scheme on Thursday as they officially terminated their contracts with banana producer Matanuska.

In a letter addressed to the farmers’ lawyers, Mhungu  and Associates,the company revealed that following the resolutions of the 24th  August meeting they had decided to terminate some of the contracts on the 30th of September.

‘Following our meeting with the IMC, the farmers, local traditional leaders, and Agritex at Mutema on 24 August 2021, we are writing to confirm the following:

“Terminate the sub-blocks 1 to 6 contract now (farmers to operate on their own/ contract another company – we are suggesting with effect from 30 September 2021) and Matanuska carries on with sub-blocks 7 to 9,” reads part of the letter gleaned by this reporter.

Contacted for comment before termination, Matansuka Finance director Richard Chiwandire earlier confirmed the latest development saying the decision was by mutual consent.

“Our contract with Mutema blocks 1 to 6 ends on 30 September 2021 by mutual consent,” Chiwandire said.

He was, however, hopeful that the farmers will reconsider their decisions because of the impact the company has made.

“Our records speak for themselves, we have improved the standard of living of many small-scale banana farmers and I am very positive that the farmers will come back to us again.

“In Chibuwe, where some of the farmers decided to terminate the contracts production has plummeted to unprecedented levels, and in Honde Valley where we also parted ways with banana farmers,we are now being inundated with calls by some of the farmers demanding that we return,” he claimed.

However, the letter written to the farmers is suggesting other options the farmers may consider which have raised eyebrows among some of the farmers that the company wants to cling to ‘the exploitative’ contracts.

“While of course, we are going to terminate the contracts Thursday the letter written by Matanuska offers other options which seem manipulative.

“We have since established that the company in connivance with our administrator and Chipinge Rural District Council officials   want to coerce us to re-enter into these contracts

“Now we are divided as some of the farmers whom we are leasing our land want to cling to these contracts,” revealed an irate leader of the Mutema Irrigation Scheme who preferred anonymity.

Asked for a comment , Chiwandire vehemently denied such allegations.

“We are not in any way manipulating any farmers and like I said the decision to terminate the contracts was done amicably,” Chiwandire said.

This publication spoke to Chipinge District Development Coordinator (DDC)  who refuted that his office is being used to coerce farmers to renegotiate with Matanuska.

“Farmers deal with Agritex and not DDC. The contract is between farmers and Matanuska and our office is not part of that signing process. If invited, we don’t even attend the signing ceremony,” argued Chipinge DDC William Mashava