Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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ZanuPF faction fights threaten ethonol project

Zanu PF faction fights threaten ethanol project

Saturday, 06 March 2010 17:01

ZANU PF factionalism is threatening to derail an ambitious Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) project in Chisumbanje and Middle Sabi with some party heavy weights claiming they are being sidelined. Last year ARDA and Billy Rautenbach’s Rating and Macdom Investments entered into a 20-year Built, Operate and Transfer arrangement to transform estates at Chisumbanje and Middle Sabi into sugarcane fields.

But there is still simmering discontent in Manicaland amid allegations some Zanu PF politicians are trying to influence the locals to reject the project.

Rautenbach, long rumoured to be a business partner of some senior Zanu PF politicians is facing similar resistance in neighbouring Masvingo where his Zimbabwe Bio-Energy (Pvt) Ltd has entered a joint venture with the Development Trust of Zimbabwe.

The two companies want to utilise about 100 000 ha of land at Nuanetsi Ranch for a bio-diesel project.
“We are worried because we were not involved in the project and only a few know what is happening,” a Zanu PF politician in the province said.

The politician said only Didymus Mutasa (Presidential Affairs minister), Joseph Made (Agriculture minister) and Basil Nyabadza (former Zanu PF provincial chairman) were briefed about the project while the other members were in the dark.

“How can you have such a project when the governor (Chris Mushohwe) has not been involved when he is the President’s representative in the province?” queried another official in the province.

What has irked politicians in the province is that the new investors were brought on a Zanu PF ticket.

There are fears that the proposed displacement of families could result in the party losing the political vote.

Families surrounding the Chisumbanje estate are set to be evicted to pave way for the expansion of the project.

The land belongs to the State but was earmarked for ARDA’s expansion.

Standardbusiness was told that 500 families under Chiefs Garawa and Mupungu would have to be relocated to pave way for the massive expansion.

To politicians, 500 families is a big number in times of elections and there are efforts to derail the resettlement programme.

Zanu Ndonga had won the Chipinge seat over the years on promises that the people would not be relocated to other areas, The Standard was told.

Nyabadza, who chairs the ARDA board, told The Standard that he had personally spoken to Mushohwe and the governor was excited about the project.

“We believe there is something to show and the governor will come together with ministers Made and Elias Mudzuri.

“In the next 10 days a parliamentary committee will visit the sites to see for themselves because we believe we have passed the talking phase,” he said.

Nyabadza said the anger from some politicians could be justified as they were “taking a short-term view because yesterday they were service providers of ARDA”.

Despite the objections by the politicians, the promoters are moving ahead with the project.

The investors have injected US$15 million so far. By November at least US$30 million would have been invested and the figure is set to double by the middle of next year.

An ethanol plant is under construction at Chisumbanje and will produce between 35 000 and 40 000 litres of ethanol per day when it is operational next year according Graeme Smith, general manager of the two projects.

The sugarcane grown at the two estates will be processed into ethanol and the first stage requires putting 11 000 ha under sugarcane.

“By the time we have 20 000 hectares under crop, we will produce ethanol to substitute 80% of the country’s fuel requirements,” Smith said.

At least 2 000 are employed and the number is set to increase when the expansion of the estates is complete.



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