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Chief accused of harassing farmers

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Some farmers, who were under Umodzi Cane Growers Association (UCGA) in Dwangwa, have accused Acting Traditional Authority Kanyenda of sending people to assault them following their decision to withdraw from the association.

About 72 sugarcane growers last month announced their withdrawal from the association, citing the group’s failure to timely pay them their sales proceeds.

A letter writ ten on December 20, 2015 and signed by all the 72 farmers, sought permision from Dwangwa Cane Growers Trust to allow them to form their own association.

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The farmers’ chairperson, Jastone Banda, claimed the development did not go down well with the T/A who allegedly mobilized people to deal with the group.

“On 22nd December last year, I met some men armed with machetes and other metal objects who were going to my house and at that time they forced me to the T/A’s house where they accused me of bringing confusion in the association.

“They beat me up and humiliated me before the chief. The chief himself told me that by withdrawing from the association I had lost my land,” Banda said.

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He alleged that those who looked influential in the group were the main target.

Another farmer, Beatwell Chaomba, said the group of men also descended on his house but did not find him there.

“They found my wife and when she told them that I was not around, they thought she was lying and they forced themselves into the house to look for me. When I came back, I realized that my K150,000 was missing,” Chaomba said.

He said since they joined the association, they have persevered all the years although they were not benefiting as they had thought.

“A lot of unexplained deductions appear on one’s sugarcane sales statement and sometimes one ends up getting nothing after all the money has been deducted. This is one of the reasons we decided to form our association.

“As I am talking to you, we have not received our first payment [from the sale of sugarcanes] which we were supposed to receive in November,” said Chaomba.

He said they reported the matter to police who only assured them that they would investigate.

When contacted, Chairperson of UCGA Edward Chirwa, who is acting T/A Kanyenda, accused the group of acting out of frustrations after failing to grab positions.

“No one has withdrawn from our association and these people are only position seekers who want to tarnish the good image of our association. You should know that this is a scheme and one cannot withdraw from a scheme, if he does, he automatically loses his land and that is what these people were told,” Chirwa said.

On the assault allegations, Chirwa denied sending people to attack anyone but said some of the farmers were punished for insulting the chieftaincy.

Nkhunga Police spokesperson, Austin Kaunda, said they were still investigating the matter.

“Indeed we have the case in our records but since this was reported during the festive period, our investigations delayed but the investigations are still underway,” said Kaunda.

UCGA is under Kazilira Sugarcane Scheme, a multimillion dollar project being funded by African Development Bank aimed at improving lives of smallholder farmers through the Green Belt Initiative.

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