Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF) managing director, Mary Machingaidze, is embroiled in a potential conflict of interest case after it emerged a company owned by her husband, David, is allegedly buying the golden leaf from TSF premises.
By Fidelity Mhlanga
David owns Ethical Leaf Tobacco, a contract tobacco firm.
Farmers taking their tobacco to TSF alleged that they were made deliver their tobacco to Ethical Leaf Tobacco.
“When farmers deliver their tobacco they expect to sell it at the auction floor, but instead, some of the tobacco is now going to Ethical Leaf tobacco. We don’t expect a listed company like TSL to condone such behaviour,” a source said.
Ethical Leaf Tobacco started operating at TSF at the beginning of this season. Statistics from Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) show that as of May 30, the company bought 5,2 million kg valued at $13,5 million at an average price of $2,52.
While TSF houses other contracting companies, farmers are worried by the direct link between Ethical Leaf Tobacco and the managing director, which raises questions on good corporate governance.
Another insider said, last year, Ethical Leaf Tobacco allegedly deployed middlemen working from TSF as it was not yet registered.
“If you are to look at some of these contract companies, who do not pay for inputs or fund tobacco production, they buy tobacco at low prices and sell to big companies. If you look at them they are more of middlemen,” a source said.
Contacted for comment on Tuesday, Machingaidze, who took over from James Mutambanesango said: “I don’t handle any of those transactions; you can speak to Tobacco Sales Limited director, Peter Mujaya. He is the one who signs and approves that.”
Efforts to get a comment from Mujaya were fruitless as his phone went unanswered since Tuesday.
TIMB public relations manager, Isheunesu Moyo promised to investigate the allegations, while urging farmers to report to the regulator if they feel their rights have been infringed.
“We will investigate the allegations. We encourage farmers whose rights have been infringed to report to TIMB,” he said.
TSF is a subsidiary of Zimbabwe Stock Exchange listed Tobacco Sales Limited (TSL), which has interests in logistics and property.