JOHANNESBURG Stock Exchange-listed sugar producer, Tongaat Hullet, is saddled with fresh threats from the ruling Zanu PF party to cede 10 000 hectares to private indigenous farmers, as well as comply with the country’s indigenisation regulations.
A crunch meeting between the company and Zanu PF interim provincial chairman Paradzai Chakona and other politburo members over the issues was scheduled for last Friday in the Lowveld, sources said.
While company spokesperson Adelaide Chikunguru professed ignorance over the meeting, Chakona, also Zaka Central MP, confirmed the meeting, but said they were “going to engage Tongaat” to live up to its word to inject money in the community share ownership scheme that it pledged to do when it was launched in 2013.
“There is the issue of the community share ownership trust,” Chakona said.
“They committed themselves to pay their part in the fund, but up to now, there is nothing in the trust and we do not know what is going on.
“So we need to know their indigenisation plan.”
President Robert Mugabe launched the Masvingo $3 million community share ownership trust, but two years down the line, the firms are yet to remit money for the schemes.
Apart from Tongaat Hullet, other companies that pledged money are Bikita Minerals, Steelmakers and Rio Zim’s Renco Mine.
Chakona said the meeting was meant to follow up on progress made on the 4 000 hectares pledged by Tongaat, but which were yet to be surrendered.
“We are going to engage Tongaat to try to convince them to increase the 4 000 hectares they pledged under the land reform programme in 2012 to 10 000 hectares.
“The company committed to develop and plant cane at the 4 000 hectares, but up to now, there is nothing,” he said.
“This puts us in a difficult situation as 140 indigenous farmers had already been given offer letters.
“There are many land-hungry people out there.”
Tongaat’s operations are recovering from a dip caused by invasions during the land redistribution programme 15 years ago and some incidents of invasions last year that saw the country’s sugarcane production decline.
Production was, however, resuscitated by an intensive $30 million farmer rehabilitation programme dubbed Successful Rural Sugarcane Farming Community Project launched in partnership with BancABC in 2011.
Recently, the sugar producer said it hopes to nearly double its cane production to 1,8 million tonnes in 2016, from one million tonnes at the end of the 2013 to 2014 season, according to the company’s 2014 annual report.