The Zimbabwean understands that Porusingazi is using the Chipinge South war veterans chair, Philemon Maphosa, who is also eyeing an influential post on the committee. Maphosa reportedly used his position, influence and war credentials to call for new DEPIC elections at a time when the current committee had not completed its term.
The move hit a brick wall when all DEPIC members were re-elected after the ten villages under headman Chisumbanje, which are affected by the ethanol project, unanimously rejected Zanu (PF)’s proposals to impose a pair of controversial and divisive war veterans on the committee.
Plot against Madhuku
The commotion around the $600 million project is said to be an indirect ploy to oust re-elected DEPIC’s spokesperson, Claris Madhuku, as Zanu (PF) moves in to consolidate its control over the Chisumbanje committee.
Madhuku, who is also the director of the Platform for Youth Development (PYD), was elected to the committee on a civil society ticket. He has since become unpopular among Zanu (PF) members angered by his activism and alleged links with the MDC-T.
DEPIC’s duty is to mediate between the community and Green Fuels, which owns the Chisumbanje plant and sugarcane plantations in the area. Green Fuels was formed in 2008 following a partnership between government-owned Arda estates, and a private company, Rating and Macdom Investment.
DEPIC is also supposed to ensure that the interests of the surrounding communities are met and not overridden by the company. The committee comprises members from the President’s Office, Chipinge Rural District Council, Agritex, Arda, Green Fuels, the Chipinge District Administrator, Edgar Seenza and civil society.
Fears are that if Madhuku is kicked out of the committee, the remaining Zanu (PF) loyal DEPIC members will have room to serve in the interest of the company at the expense of the Chipinge communities. The mere inclusion of Maphosa in the committee is also viewed as a huge loss for the community as his interests lie with Green Fuels. He was one of the war veterans to share in 250 hectares from the company.
“Zanu (PF) people want DEPIC to be controlled by its loyalists who will represent the interests of the company. The call for election by Maphosa was a clear attempt to kick me out of the committee since I am the most vocal person pushing for the interests of the communities,” said Madhuku.
“My organisation (PYD) was given the mandate to mediate on behalf of the community. Before the July 31 elections, we were all speaking with one voice but after Zanu (PF) won, there have been several politically motivated clashes orchestrated by the war-veterans’ district leader to replace me. But whose interests will Maphosa serve when he is not from the affected communities?”
Outside DEPIC, Madhuku has managed to pressure Green Fuels using his position as the director of PYD to construct a 30km road connecting Checheche with Garahwa, Chinyamukwakwa and Mabee villages. Recently, PYD was able to make a breakthrough to ensure villagers in Chinyamukwakwa gets safe water through the drilling of three more boreholes in the hardest-hit areas.
“The company is getting more pressure from us (PYD) than DEPIC,” said Madhuku, who added that, if the political bickering persisted, he would pull out of the committee because people were losing confidence in it.
Madhuku survived the election coup after stiff resistance from various communities.
However, the politically motivated turmoil resulted in the arrest of several members of the community over the issue.
The DEPIC saga comes after intense clashes between MDC-T and Zanu (PF) at ministerial level during the previous government that threatened smooth operations of the plant.
Tug of war
The $600m ethanol plant project was closed down in February last year after political wrangling. The workforce was left jobless. Former Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara was appointed to head an inter-ministerial committee to resolve the Chisumbanje problem and found that a tug of war between the parties was at fault.
DEPIC joined the row, claiming that the company had been indirectly disadvantaging surrounding communities, after the government displaced villagers to make way for more sugarcane plantations for Green Fuels.
Its first successful meeting was held in late March, this year where there was consensus that the plant should reopen as soon as possible. DEPIC resolved to provide a progressive working atmosphere to ensure the continuity of the project.
However, Elton Mangoma then in charge of the Energy Ministry, said Green Fuels needed to comply with regulations before a blending licence could be availed. He also argued that Green Fuels was more of a partnership between Zanu (PF) and the private company than with the government and so could not be awarded such a licence.
Former Zanu (PF) Manicaland provincial chairman and ARDA board chair Basil Nyabadza maintained that MDC-T was sabotaging operations at the plant.
Meanwhile, the government is strongly banking on the project since it promises to cut the country’s fuel bill.
The ethanol plant, which currently produces 220,000 litres of ethanol a day and five megawatts of electricity, has capacity to produce 700,000 litres of ethanol and 18 megawatts of electricity to be fed into the national grid, once fully operational. It could help the country save more than $200,000 a day in petrol imports, and at least $72m a year through petrol blending.Post published in: News