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Cottco employees go five months without pay amid company crisis

Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) employees say they have gone five months without receiving a cent in salary from the troubled parastatal. The workers, who spoke to the ZimMorningPost, said they were struggling to feed their families and pay their bills as the company failed to honour its obligations.

This comes as the Government has summoned the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (COTTCO) officials to explain why the company is failing to pay the US$6.8 million the company owes cotton farmers.

Speaking during Parliament’s question and answer session last week, Lands Minister Anxious Masuka said the Government expects COTTCO to clear the outstanding US$6.8 million owed to farmers before the end of this month.

Turning to the employee welfare, Cottco employees who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals said: “We have not been paid for five months now and we have been dragged from pillar to post but nothing has materialized. We are suffering and we don’t know what to do. We have children who need to go to school, we have rent to pay, we have medical bills to settle, but we have no income.”

The employee said some workers had resorted to borrowing money from relatives and friends, while others had taken up informal jobs to survive.

Another employee said the situation at Cottco was dire. He said the company had failed to secure adequate funding to support its operations and pay its debts.

“Cottco is in a crisis and it needs urgent intervention. The company has been operating at a loss for years and it has accumulated huge debts. The government, which is the major shareholder, has not been forthcoming with financial support. The company has also failed to access loans from banks and other institutions because of its poor credit rating,” he said.

He said the company had also been hit by low cotton production, side-marketing by farmers, and corruption by some of its executives.

“The company has lost its edge and its reputation. The company has also been involved in some scandals and controversies that have tarnished its image,” he said.

He said the company needed a complete overhaul and restructuring to restore its viability and profitability. He said the company needed new management, new strategies, new technologies, and new partnerships to revive its fortunes.

“We are appealing to the government and other stakeholders to intervene and save Cottco from collapse. The company has a lot of potential and it can contribute significantly to the economy and the livelihoods of many people. The company needs a fresh start and a new direction to overcome its challenges and achieve its goals,” he said.

Questions sent to Cottco corporate communications manager Constance Makoni-Thodhlana were not responded to at the time of publishing.