Rautenbach Grabs More Land from Chisumbanje Villagers

Green Fuel, the joint venture between controversial billionaire tycoon Billy Rautenbach – a close ally of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe – and the government, has announced plans to seize four times more land than it currently occupies in Manicaland without compensating villagers.
State media quoted the company’s general manager, Graeme Smith saying Green Fuel wanted to expand land under its control from the present 9 500 hectares to 50 000.
Smith claimed in an interview that part of a $1 billion investment fund earmarked for the project would be for compensation. However, farmers in the area remained skeptical after Rautenbach’s firm failed to compensate them for land already taken.
Claris Madhuku of the activist group Platform for Youth Development (PYD), which has been fighting for villagers’ farming rights since the project started in 2009, told Now Daily on Thursday that the Chisumbanje farmers had not been consulted over the decision to seize more land from them.
“The community is being sidelined,” Madhuku said. “Our voice as a community used to be organized in the form of DEPIC (District Ethanol Plant Implementation Committee) which has been rendered dysfunctional by the government of the day. Decisions are now being made in offices where we are being excluded but with the blessings of the Zanu PF government.”
Madhuku said the community could not blame the company for pursuing business, “but the government of Zimbabwe for failing to protect her people”.
“We are being made vulnerable in the process to fight for beneficiation,” Madhuku said. “Our struggle is being defined as opposition as a strategy to weaken our voice.”
Green Fuel is under pressure to increase ethanol production after being given a monopoly to supply ethanol for blending with petrol under a compulsory government programme which is now being challenged in the Constitutional Court. The company has now resorted to buying additional ethanol from a South African company, raising questions about a Zanu PF decision to make Rautenbach’s firm a monopoly supplier when it could not meet demand. Questions have also arisen over pricing after it emerged the South African supplier, Triangle Ltd retails ethanol at 60 cents per litre compared to Green Fuel’s $1.10.
Smith made grand claims – dismissed by experts – that Green Fuel could supply enough ethanol in the long term to make Zimbabwe stop petrol imports. – Now Daily.

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