Ray Bande Senior Reporter
ZIMBABWE’s largest timber processor Allied Timbers was plunged into turmoil this week when its contractors downed tools to coerce the company to settle outstanding debts. The contractors, in a letter dated February 1, 2018 and addressed to the company’s chief executive Dr Daniel Sithole, which the paper has in possession, said:
“Due to the fact that we have been told that we (are) no longer permitted to load timber – pending the resolution and or signing of contracts, we are finding ourselves in a position where we do not have money to fund our operations. This has put us in a very serious predicament causing us to stop operations”.
About 10 contractors, who employ more than 1 000 workers have capacity to process about 4 000 cubic metres of timber per month which generate close to a million dollars. The work stoppage is now having a telling effect on the 1000 workers. One of the contractors, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said one of their major concerns is that they are not being given cuts eligible for export.
“We have been left with no option but to stop production. We have outstanding payments that have left us in a difficult position to continue production. Ideally, as contractors we have the capacity to cut 8 000 cubic metres per month and bring back the company to profitability but the challenge is that we are owed for three months production. If that amount is paid, even in the form of timber, Allied Timbers would be viable in three months.”
Dr Sithole played down the impasse saying no operations had been suspended.
“I am actually driving to Mutare right now to meet Minister of State for Manicaland Affairs Senator Monica Mutsvangwa. There is nothing like that. The contractors, yes, have some issues about their contacts and but they have not stopped production. They only want us to discuss a few things, including their contracts. I have not seen the letter that you are talking about therefore I am not in a position to comment on it. I do not think the situation is as you are saying,” said Dr Sithole.
Dr Sithole denied allegations that they are not giving contractors exportable timber.
“Timber is a generic product and I believe the contractors are aware of that. The timber that we are giving them can still be exported.
“Our contractors are smart and know that very well. In any case, we do not issue export documents as Allied Timbers,” he said.