CHIREDZI –Tongaat Hullet, the sole sugarcane producing company in Zimbabwe is claiming millions of dollars from 900 sugarcane farmers which is owed through overpayments made between 2014 to 2016.
The sudden development followed a dispute between the sugarcane farmers and Tongaat Hullet over Division of Proceeds (DOP).
Initially farmers were the ones who were claiming money from Tongaat after declaring that they were underpaid through DOP proceeds. The farmers have actually taken their case to the courts.
However, in a sudden turn of events, Tongaat is now claiming overpayment to the farmers and has written letters to farmers to that effect. One farmer whose letter was seen by The Mirror received a claim of $14 000 while a local MP says he received a claim of $25 000.
In addition to Tongaat the farmers' associations in Chiredzi also took the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mike Bimha to court challenging the DOP rate which was set at the ratio of 77% to 23% from the previous 83% to 17%.
Farmers from Mkwasine, Triangle and Hippo Valley were served with the letters signed by Tongaat Finance Director Shelton Nhari notifying them of the intention to recover the money.
"Following the minister`s directives dated June 6, 2014 and November 2016, revising the DOP ratios kindly be advised that the company will proceed to recover the overpayment from your future cane proceeds once a recovery framework has been agreed on. In this regard the Millers expect to engage the respective farmers associations by June 2, 2017 in-order to agree on a sustainable recovery framework that safeguards the viability of all parties, after which you would be advised accordingly.
"Our records show that you owe Tongaat Hullet a total of $14 867 56 in DOP overpayments in respect of the seasons 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17," reads part of the letter dated 18 May.