Kanengo lost the plot
He has lived up to his word. President Mutharika has expelled, in his words, four colonialists for working against him and his governments development agenda. Bosses at Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company, Alliance One Limited and Premium TAMA Tobacco have been sent packing for consistently offering lower than agreed prices for tobacco. Opinion is divided on whether deportation was the best approach to follow.
It is a known fact that in recent years buyers have offered less than satisfactory prices for leaf and this year it has been made worse by the fact that buyers are rejecting good quality leaf opting to scramble for the poorer quality. Why they are doing this remains a mystery. It is also alleged that tobacco firms buy leaf at rock bottom prices, sell it at a high profit and at the end of it all they get hefty salaries and big bonuses. In one persons words, they live in opulence at the expense of the poor farmer. Recently there have been allegations that Limbe Leaf provided the Malawi Congress Party with millions of kwachas in donations to run it’s 2009 elections campaign with the sole aim of getting Mutharika out of the way, their sworn enemy. Limbe Leaf denied it. There have also been other allegations, true and imaginary, including illegal externalisation of funds.
President Mutharika had repeatedly warned the buyers he would take stern action, a warning that probably fell on deaf ears in recent times. But the whip has been cracked and four families had 24 hours to pack up and go. ‘They were warned’ was phrase on the proponents lips.
But are the expulsions all it will take for farmers to get better prices at the floors? Yesterday it was reported that there were better prices on offer although farmers said the prices were only slightly better, zasinthako pang’ono, while the news anchor said the prices have changed drastically. Which ever was the case government can say they have been vindicated. But people tend to react out of fear. Next week we could very well see prices dropping yet again and it’s not like it has not happened before.
Government needs to stamp it’s authority on the situation but without causing fear or panic. There has to be a proactive master plan to get favourable prices for our leaf without using what some have termed as heavy handed tactics. It is only hoped that these deportations were an unfortunate and unavoidable first step of that plan. The last thing investors need, foreign or local, is an environment of uncertainty, one where families are given 24 hours to go. After all government is no scarecrow that sends people scampering for cover, tail between legs, each time it says ‘boo!’