Twenty years ago – Farmer fined for helping peasants


A Gweru cattle farmer, Paul Richard Friedricks, a director of Anchor Ranching was fined $7 000 for buying more than 1 000 bags of maize from communal farmers. Although the amount looks high, he was lucky because he could have been fined anything between $45 000 and $48 000 had the magistrate not found extenuating circumstances. 

Apparently, Anchor Ranching had contravened a section of the Grain Marketing Board Act which prohibits farmer-to-farmer grain sales.

Anchor Ranching bought 1 264 bags of maize from communal farmers in Lower Gweru. The maize was used to feed the ranch’s 1 200 beef cattle and 1 000 dairy cows.

Friedricks said he had actually been approached by the communal farmers because they were having problems getting their maize to the GMB. A GMB official admitted to the court that the parastatal was facing transport problems.

Friedricks said he was aware of the regulations governing farmer-to-farmer sales of grain but understood that this had been relaxed in 1989. Moreover, he said, the communal farmers were having problems in getting the right packaging for their grain (grain bags) and meeting the minimum quantity requirements of the GMB.

“I agreed to assist the communal farmers by purchasing grain from them at any time of the day including at weekends when the GMB was closed,” Friedricks told the court. “I also bought any number of bags the farmer brought. The grain was used almost immediately so there was no downgrading of the maize so the farmers got the best possible price for their grain.

“I also paid them cash on delivery yet it would have taken three to four months for them to get their cheques from the GMB,” he said.

Friedricks said his company was therefore assisting the communal farmer and was not seeking any monetary gain for his company. He said if individual communal farmers wanted to supply grain to the GMB directly they had to at least have 11 bags. But since most did not have that much to sell they were forced to group together to supply the GMB.

Since various types of maize were mixed this led to disagreement among the farmers when their maize was downgraded because somebody’s maize was of poor quality. It was for these reasons that he had decided to help the communal farmers of Lower Gweru.

His scheme had caught on so well with people in the area that he had to turn down some of the suppliers, Friedricks told the court.

Regional magistrate Nicholas Ndou said although he law stipulated that anyone who contravened that section of the GMB Act could be asked to pay a fine three times the value of commodity involved, he did not believe this applied to Anchor Ranching’s case.

He said Anchor Ranching had bought the maize to feed its cattle and not to resell it at a profit. Moreover, he said, people sold their maize to Anchor ranching because they found it more profitable to do so than to sell to the GMB. Besides, the GMB itself had admitted that it was having problems.

Ndou, however, pointed out that Anchor Ranching had breached the law and people should not be encouraged to breach the law.

The GMB has just announced that it intends to reduce its maize reserves by half to cut storage costs which now stand at $21 million a year.

-From The Insider February 1991


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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