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    Saturday, 27 August 2016

    Alarm bells toll for Tongaat




    MORRIS BISHI
    CHIREDZI BUREAU

    CHIREDZI –
    Operations at Tongaat Hulett, the country's largest producer of sugar are on the brink as the company's confidence for the future gets leaner because of uncertainty caused by internecine Zanu PF fights.
    The company has already failed to recruit 3 000 casual workers that it contracts during this time of the year when it harvests sugarcane because it cannot go back to the fields that have been parceled out to 213 Zanu PF supporters.
    Experts have warned that Tongaat was going the same way many large companies had gone in Zimbabwe including iron and steel giants like Zisco, smeltering company like Zimasco and one of the world's largest asbestos producers, Shabanie Mashaba Mines which shut down due to politics.
    Long queues of farmers delivering their sugarcane are the order of the day at Tongaat's plants and sources have said that this is because machinery was no longer being maintained regularly because of the uncertainty that the company now faces. This poor state of the machinery has slowed down the crushing of cane and farmers are waiting for up to five days in queues to deliver their crop at Hippo Valley.
    Experts also told The Mirror that sugarcane production is going to drop significantly next year because most farmers allocated land in Hippo Valley this year have failed to apply fertilizers and herbicides as is required immediately after harvest. It is understood that this is because the majority did not have the capital.
    Tongaat Hulett Corporate Affairs and Communications Manager, Adelaide Chikunguru could not be reached for comment.
    Zimbabwe Sugar Milling and Industry Workers Union (ZISMIWU) president Freedom Madungwe confirmed the situation and said his heart bleeds that 3 000 casual workers are not going to get any jobs this year and in the future.
    He also said there would be lower production next year because new farmers have done nothing on the fields.
    The Mirror paid a visit to Hippo Valley where three sections, Section 6, 7 and 1 were completely taken over and new farmers are failing to maintain the sugarcane plant in the fields after harvest by Tongaat in March.
    "Initially it was reported that this takeover of Tongaat land would affect 2 000 workers. The truth is that it would affect 5 000 as 3 000 casual workers have already lost their jobs," said Mudungwe.
    The MP for the area Darlington Chiwa said the tragedy is that the industry is being destroyed by politicians who are getting plots at Tongaat when they already have many other farms elsewhere.
    A sugarcane farmer who refused to be named said farmers are incurring huge losses as trucks carrying sugarcane are taking almost three days to be offloaded for milling at Hippo Valley. He said the more the cane is kept without being crushed after harvest, the more it loses its value.
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