Tobacco billions not paid

…angry farmers lock down market

…IT manager claims another hack

…system change affects payments

The spirit of tampering with effective systems which were operating efficiently has now reached the Tobacco payment systems which was changed to accommodate one politically connected buyer- resulting into chaos that have led to hundreds of tobacco farmers in tears.

A farming family working on tobacco bales pressing – pic by Jacob Nankhonya

On Tuesday, tired of stories and music from officials, the farmers closed the market saying they could not continue selling their sweat and toil for no returns. Discussions are continuing but the solution, just like passports chaos might take long to come.

The administration of chaos seems to be living to its billing- creating more chaos than solutions.

Despite proclaiming over US$57 million dollars in tobacco sales, the hard-working farmers are in tears, dancing from the Auction Floors to Banks and other authorities- others since the market opened three weeks ago.

The majority of farmers- at least 80 percent of those that have sold their tobacco so far are yet to start receiving their monies.

The majority of farmers- at least 80 percent of those that have sold their tobacco so far are yet to start receiving their monies.

What happened to the system

The Investigator Magazine has been told that last year, Nyasa Tobacco Company convinced authorities to change the system from the United States dollars to paying in Malawi kwacha since they will offer higher than average rates.

The authorities obliged and engaged a company to update the payment system. It was not tested properly before the market started. It has created chaos, and authorities have been unable to tell farmers the truth: they can’t be paid because something is very wrong with the payment system.

“They had a wrong module of paying transporters, and this resulted in overpayments. It was not corrected, and then it went to farmers. One farmer was credited with K2 billion as sales, they had to freeze the account. If he had any money, it means everything stopped,” said our source.

President Chakwera touring the tobacco auction floors – pic source: State House

The chaos continues to affect even buyers as it would jam middle of sales and restart again the whole process rendering the sales laborious as some sales were done twice.

“So, if Limbe Leaf had two says, it stops and starts again instead of showing three with the next one, it would double the figures. The system now makes payments quite impossible. The best would be to revert to something that works and do these trial and error off-season,” said an IT expert.

Auction Holdings claims the matter is due to a hacked system that processes payments

The Auction Holdings, in the middle of it, fired the ICT manager and hired an acting one related to one of the political gurus in the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). He comically lied that the system was hacked.

“The man lied that the fired manager (name withheld) had hacked the system. The Police went to pick him up for questioning. It’s simply because they tampered with the system that farmers must now pay for their mediocrity,” another source familiar with the matter said.

Christmas for others, tears for many

A few farmers who have had the luck of having their monies paid are smiling; others were lucky to be paid more than they invested. Last week, one farmer’s account had over K700 million, an amount that is over allocation of district councils ORT, many of which have not been paid since last year.

I am wasting money chasing for payment – farmer

“They wanted money in kwacha to control foreign exchange earnings and please one company. I have tenants and lots of workers I have to pay, I am wasting money chasing for payment. Someone should tell this government to leave things that are working alone so we don’t hear these hacking stories,” an angry farmer from Kasungu told our reporters when asked of his experiences.

Tobacco Commission and Auction Holdings Managers were reported in meetings the whole of Tuesday as farmers refused to sale without being paid.

The Ministry of Agriculture has gone mute after trumpeting “the best season ever” which has left farmers running away from their creditors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *