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    Friday, 22 July 2016

    Outcry as Zimra garnishes 500 sugarcane farmers


    – Sugarcane farmers in Chiredzi have said that there is a high likelihood that a large number of them would not return to farming next season after the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority garnished their accounts of millions of dollars.
    Sources said that a large number of farmers got negative Bank balances after the taxman garnished amounts ranging from a few thousand dollars to over $20 000.
    The farmers were paid their dues  after delivering their harvested sugarcane to Tongaat Hulett in the last two weeks. A farmer who lost $5 000 and spoke to The Mirror on condition of anonymity said she had been incapacitated and is unable to continue with farming because she has no resources.
    Efforts to get a comment from Zimra spokesperson Taungana Ndoro were fruitless despite having sent questions to him.
    Commercial Sugarcane Farmers Association of Zimbabwe (CSFAZ) chairman Tawanda Mafurutu said there was an urgent need for a meeting between the farmers and high Government officials.
    He said ZIMRA was shooting itself in the foot. Although Mafurutu could not give specific figures, it is understood that bank accounts of 200 more farmers were still to be garnished bringing the total number of affected farmers to over 700.
    "We have a big crisis on our hands and it calls for an urgent meeting with the relevant Government departments and Zimra. Most of our members who were supposed to get their money after delivering sugarcane to Tongaat Hullet were shocked to be notified that ZIMRA has garnished their bank accounts. I cannot ascertain the number of farmers but many of them remained with negative balances.
    "We are making an urgent appeal to the ministries of Finance and Industry to consider a proposal we submitted as CSFAZ in which we requested for a fixed tax rather than the long process of paperwork which involves many middlemen. The long process being employed by ZIMRA results in garnishes.
    "Government needs cash but the agriculture sector should also move forward and if nothing is done to address the issue sugarcane farmers will be kicked out of their fields so there is need for an urgent intervention," said Mafurutu.
    Mkwasine Sugarcane Farmers Association Secretary for Publicity Wellington Mudzimiri said there should be direct communication between ZIMRA and sugarcane farmers instead of engaging through middlemen.
    He said many farmers have been left with nothing to buy inputs for the next season.
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