By Tendai Sahondo
Ethical Leaf Tobacco is currently engaged in a questionable business alliance with dodgy Dubai based firm, Premier Leaf Tobacco (PLT) that was expelled from Malawi for unethical dealings and conniving with players in the industry to sabotage the Malawian economy.
The firm which was declared an enemy of the state by deceased Malawian president, Bingu Wa Mutharika has since found a new home in Zimbabwe and a partner in ELT.
This emerged during a parliamentary portfolio committee on Agriculture, Climate, Water, and Rural Resettlement which sought to unravel the complicated web that connects PLT, ELT and Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF) where ELT is based. However the committee chaired by Gokwe-Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena could not get very far as the man at the centre of the web, ELT Managing Director David Machingaidze could not be available for the proceedings as he was reported to be ill.
So complicated is the web which connects the Manager Director of TSF, Mary Machingaidze who also happens to be the wife of David Machingaidze.
ELT has since roped in Zanu PF national political commissar, Rtd General Engelbert Rugeje who is one of the board members. Wadyajena also claimed that officials from ELT approached him to discuss the parliamentary summons at his workshop which he resisted.
Speaking before the committee, ELT General Manager, Andrew Mupfava said the company is involved in Tobacco contract farming which it then offloads to off taker, PLT. He said the firm managed to disburse $6mln in the current season and has since mobilized $30mln for the coming season. Questioned on the source of funds, the general manager gave an unsatisfactory answer, claiming the funds are sourced from investors, before recanting the boob and changing goal posts. Mupfava later said the project is financed by bank loans.
He said the relationship between ELT and TSF is simply of a service nature as TSF receives and auctions the Tobacco on behalf of ELT before disbursing funds to farmers under the TSF banner. Players in the industry are on record for lambasting the preferential treatment given to ELT by TSF on the basis of the two directors from both companies being husband and wife.
PLT Tobacco MD, Alex Mackay who ran Premier TAMA in Malawi was deported from that country along with four other executives from varying tobacco companies.
Mutharika described the executives as imperialists, who were stealing from poor farmers. He said the executives were destabilisting the country and trying to retard social and economic development.
The buyers were alleged to have been offering low prices to Malawian farmers while offering high prices in neighboring countries for the same quality of tobacco.