Chisumbanje farmers want their land back from Rautenbach

The MDC-T legislator for Chipinge South has said villagers who lost their land through the construction of the Chisumbanje ethanol plant are still waiting for a cabinet resolution of how they will be compensated.

Three years ago Macdom Investments took over Chisumbanje Estate from the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA). The ethanol plant is owned by controversial businessman Billy Rautenbach who has strong links to ZANU PF ministers.

In 2009 the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in the President's Office, Didymus Mutasa, gave Rautenbach permission to take over 5,000 hectares of land at ARDA's Chisumbanje Estate to grow sugarcane, to be used in the production of ethanol fuel. On 19th March 2009, 16 days after the formation of the inclusive government, Mutasa reportedly signed a letter authorising Rautenbach to operate the ethanol project at Chisumbanje, but never disclosed this to Cabinet.

Local MP Meke Makuyana said the company also illegally grabbed thousands of hectares of additional land from farmers in Chisumbanje.

‘According to a contract that they signed with ARDA, Macdom is only entitled to 5,112 hectares of land, which is in black and white. We also pointed out this to a cabinet task force team that visited the plant recently, led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara,’ the MP said.

‘The villagers were promised compensation for the land they lost and that they would get their land back which had been taken away by the estate. My understanding is that cabinet has already discussed the issue and we are waiting for a response,’

The US$600 million Green Fuel ethanol plant has stopped production after running out of storage space as the company struggles to push its product on the local market.

Energy Minister Elton Mangoma recently shrugged off attempts by the company to try and arm-twist the government into forcing mandatory blending of fuel for all motorists.

The Minister said despite calling for mandatory blending at all fuel stations, the company had not put in place logistics on how it will blend the fuel.

This led to Makuyana complaining that the whole project has raised tensions in his constituency with counter-accusations between farmers, villagers, plant owners and politicians of sabotage.

‘You have a group of farmers and villagers accusing Macdom of sabotaging their livelihoods. On the other hand you have officials from Macdom accusing certain politicians of sabotaging the project, while politicians are accusing Macdom of wanting to arm twist government.

‘It’s a mess and I hope the cabinet committee set up to look into the matter would resolve the crisis,’ the legislator added. SW Radio Africa

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