KATIMA MULILO – Local maize producers in the Zambezi region have vowed to fight to recover N$700 000 owed to them by a local milling company by any means necessary.
The company in question is Agrimill, based in the Machita area. It procures tonnes of maize grains from local farmers in the region and mills the grains for selling.
The frustrated farmers have not received their payments since 2021, which forced them to approach the regional political leadership and police for their urgent intervention.
One of the farmers’ representatives, Morris Simwanza, this week said despite promising them to settle his dues a month ago, the owner of the company, Berhard Mbeha, has failed to honour this commitment.
“We were convinced that farmers could just go home and he would pay all of us in full. It is almost a month later that no payment has been made. He is a liar. We want him to pay us completely once and for all.
“Farming needs a lot of financial and human resources to produce those bags of maize. I personally sold 202 maize bags to him, and I have been paid nothing since 2021. My children didn’t go to school because I couldn’t afford to pay for them. We want our money in full,” Simwanza demanded.
Last month, the over 70 affected farmers petitioned the regional governor Lawrence Sampofu to instruct Mbeha to pay them the money he owes them since 2021.
To further demonstrate the seriousness of the matter, the affected farmers camped one night at the company premises in the Machita area.
Simwanza said while they were camping, some farmers started receiving their payments from the company.
However, due to inadequate food supplies, they could not camp for many days; hence, they decided to disperse and returned home with the promise – and I hope the owner would pay all of them in full.
On Monday, Simwanza said, to their surprise, the owner stopped making further payments to individual farmers after the crowd dispersed from his premises.
At the time, Simwanza said the owner of the company paid one of the female producers while they were camping at his premises and three other farmers while they were at home.
Farmers are also demanding the payment of interest of 5% from the company that was agreed between the millers.
Efforts to obtain comment from Mbeha have proved futile since last month. He did not respond to calls or text messages sent to him.
The angry farmers are scheduled to meet today to map the way forward.
Contacted for comment, Sampofu said he thought the matter was resolved.
“Since that time of the petition, the farmers did not come back to me. I thought the issue was resolved. The governor’s office remains open to all. I advise the farmers to go back to Mbeha so they hear and talk the way forward,” he advised.
Kabbe North councillor Bernard Sisamu confirmed that some farmers have not been paid by private agrimillers.
“There is a syndrome going on within the agrimill companies. I received many complaints from farmers that since 2021, they were not paid for their maize by these companies,” he stated.
Sampofu earlier acknowledged that many farmers have not received their payments for maize sold to private millers.
“We have a problem with Agrimill at Machita. It’s been brewing since 2021. There are 143 farmers, whose maize was taken, ranging from 10 bags to 450 bags, but they are not paid. They have been coming to my office. I consulted the magistrate about what do to in this case. The magistrate advised them to open a case. So, I advised them to do so,” the governor said.
The farmers also approached the Katima Mulilo Magistrate’s Court to seek advice on the matter and were advised to open a police case, a call which they heeded.
They opened cases of theft under false pretence at Sanwali police station on 4 January 2023.
Zambezi police spokesperson Kisco Sitali yesterday confirmed the cases involving 202 bags of maize, worth N$66 699, are still under police investigation.
Another case of false pretence involved 40 bags of maize, valued at N$12 378. This case was withdrawn by the complainant.
Additionally, two other farmers also withdrew their cases; one involved 80 bags of maize, valued at N$29 789, while the other encompassed 62 bags of maize grains, worth N$18 505.