Tobacco growers accuse tobacco companies of tax evasion
By Staff Reporter
SMALL–SCALE Tobacco growers have accused tobacco companies of evading tax by not remitting the tobacco levy collected from farmers.
The farmers, who spoke through Saidi Phiri a farmer from Central Province, said for over three years the tobacco companies and some commercial farmers had connived with Tobacco Association of Zambia (TAZ) to refuse paying statutory levies owed to government to a tune of K15 million, contrary to the laws of Zambia.
“The white farmers collected the levy from the growers on behalf of government and have refused to remit these millions of kwachas to government, a move which has since angered the small-scale farmers,” Phiri alleged.
“We believe there is a cartel of civil servants, politicians, tobacco dealers who have conspired to deny government the revenue owed to it. We believe that some civil servants in other government departments who are beneficiaries are undermining the Ministry of Agriculture by aiding this illegality.”
They described TAZ as an irrelevant association that was working against the very farmers it was formed to represent.
The farmers accused TAZ and some tobacco companies of trying to incite small-scale farmers to raise against government and to have recently introduced Statutory Instruments repealed.
And Phiri, on behalf of the farmers, called on the government to investigate the sale and transfer of ownership of the tobacco processing plant and other assets which were owned by the Tobacco Board of Zambia (TBZ) to private individuals and an association that represented white commercial farmers.
He urged the government to investigate how the processing plant which was entrusted in the hands of TAZ was transferred to private hands without the knowledge of the owners who were small-scale farmers.
“We find it interesting that at that particular time, the general manager for TAZ, by the name of Van Der Vinne, claimed to have bought the factory with TAZ claiming to own shares within the factory which property was entrusted to them by the Tobacco farmers countrywide,” Phiri explained.
“To date, all the Zambian indigenous tobacco farmers have been pushed out of the factory ownership by the association that should have protected their interest at the time.”
He added that TAZ was currently constituted by 90 per cent white commercial farmers membership.
“On this matter, we the tobacco farmers implore government to investigate this sale and transfer of ownership from the farmers to a private individual that was at the time an employee of an association and TAZ as an association of white commercial farmers. These two entities, Tombwe Processing Limited and Tobacco Association of Zambia, share the same logo.
“As indigenous tobacco farmers, we feel cheated with this purported transaction,” Phiri noted.
He further accused TAZ of being a “compromised association” which had been misrepresenting small-scale tobacco growers in the country.
Efforts to get a comment from TAZ management failed by press time.