HARARE – The Tobacco Sales Floors (TSF) premises were turned into a war zone yesterday as police fought running battles with angry farmers who staged a demonstration demanding their cash from banks.
Police tears-gased and thrashed the desperate farmers in a mayhem which left some injured and properties destroyed.
The skirmishes erupted after the police tried to violently block the farmers who had besieged the banks — located inside TSF complex.
In reaction, the restive farmers started throwing stones and bricks at the riot police, who in return started firing teargas and beating them with batons.
The Daily News team which visited the scene heard the police shouting “munhu wese kumba pano hapashandike (everyone must go home now”.
Frustrated farmers who spoke to the Daily News confirmed that they had battled over the past month to access their money from both banking halls and automated teller machines (ATMs).
This has seen many of them sleeping out in the open on empty stomachs, as they waited to access their money.
“Hurumende yedu haichadi vanhu yakutirwisa Smith aiva nani (The government is now fighting us. The Smith regime was better).
“We have spent more than two weeks here and we are getting $100 from banks,” a farmer who refused to be named said.
Another old-aged woman, who preferred anonymity, showed the Daily News receipts of her tobacco sold on March 22 for $5 000 but she was yet to get her money.
“I come from Karoi. I am getting $100 daily but the problem is that there are people who helped us they are also demanding their money and this situation is destroying agriculture,” she said.
Recently, tobacco farmers disrupted auctions, after the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board sanctioned a Zimra directive to withhold 10 percent tax on their gross tobacco sales.
The government was later forced to reverse the decision following a meeting between Agriculture minister Joseph Made and his Finance counterpart Patrick Chinamasa, after the farmers threatened to withhold their produce in protest.
This comes as Zimbabwe’s economy continues to die — as manifested by rising poverty levels, worsening job losses and severe cash shortages — with the government showing signs of panic, amid fresh warnings by experts that the country is headed for an economic disaster akin to the meltdown of 2008.
It also comes as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has set the maximum limit for cash back facilities by retailers and wholesalers at $20, as authorities desperately try to mitigate the country’s worsening cash crisis which is forcing long-suffering Zimbabweans to spend hours at banks queuing for their money.