ARDA workers cry foul

WORKERS at the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority’s (Arda) Sanyati estate have accused the parastatal of corruptly and unprocedurally transferring the plantation to a private company, which they say has brought farming operations to a virtual halt thus impoverishing them as they have not been paid since 2011.

Herbert Moyo

Speaking to the businessdigest this week, the workers said the transfer of the estate in February 2011 to Gameloft is “highly irregular, suspicious and possibly a reflection of corruption at the parastatal” as the company was only registered in July, five months later.

“How is it possible that the company got Arda Sanyati in February 2011 five months before it was officially registered in July 2011,” asked one worker who refused to be identified.

“Furthermore, some of Gameloft’s directors (Willard) Mbona and (Exodus) Makumbe also sit on the Arda board raising our suspicions that this deal was only carried out to benefit them as individuals.”

Documents seen by this paper show that Gameloft has five directors among them Mbona and Makumbe whom the workers accuse of conflict of interest as they also sit on the Arda board.

Mbona is the acting general manager at the parastatal while Makumbe is a board member. The other directors are Simbarashe Mupandanyama, John Mungure and Trust Muzvozviona.

However, Arda board chairperson Basil Nyabadza denied charges of impropriety, saying Arda never transferred the estate to Gameloft but they only came in as joint venture partners in a deal which has since been terminated because of their failure to bring in the funds they promised to inject in the investment.

“This was a joint venture in which Arda retained a controlling 51% stake and proceeded to appoint Mbona and Makumbe into the Gameloft Board to represent Arda,” said Nyabadza in an interview this week.
“The problem is that some of our workers do not understand the concept of joint ventures and the minute they saw the names of Mbona and Makumbe there were all kinds of claims.

“Some people want to see a scandal when there isn’t one but I can assure you the whole thing was done procedurally as we are dealing with government assets,” added Nyabadza who promised to avail documents to back his claims.

However, Nyabadza confirmed the workers had not been paid since 2011.

Arda is now looking for new partners for the estate as productivity continues to decline.

“The company does not have money or even the capacity to run the farm as evidenced by the non-payment of our salaries as well the decline in farming activities ever since they took over in 2011,” said another worker.

He added: “Under irrigation, Arda used to grow wheat, maize, cotton and vegetables but since Gameloft took over production things have ground to a standstill. There appears to be a plot to strip the estate of its assets with houses being vandalised and cattle being slaughtered,” he said.