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Conflict brews in Chisumbanje

CONFLICT is brewing between ethanol-producing giant Green Fuel and the local community in the Chisumbanje area over what the community claims are unfulfilled promises of compensation, employment and resolution of boundary disputes.

Herbert Moyo

Local community representatives said Green Fuel is taking advantage of the emasculation of the District Ethanol Project Implementation Committee (Depic) — set up by cabinet during the tenure of Zimbabwe’s coalition government (2009-2013) comprising Zanu PF and the MDC formations to facilitate communication among the local community, government and Green Fuels — to renege on its promises to compensate them.

“Green fuel promised at least 75% of the unskilled labour would be given to people from the local community but that has not materialised, said the representatives who included Claris Madhuku, Wedzerai Gwenzi and Robinson Nyakurwa.

“They also promised to give compensation to villagers whose maize crop was destroyed when the company took over their land but all the company seems prepared to give is a mere 300 grammes per hectare of maize.”

Depic had stakeholders that included the Chipinge South legislator, local councillors for ward 28 and 26 ,headmen for Chisumbanje and Chinyamukwakwa, local chief Garahwa, Green fuel representatives, an Agritex Officer, settler farmers, community representatives and representatives from the President’s Office.

“It was at Depic meetings that the issues of compensation, auditing and beneficiation were tabled and resolutions made, with the community receiving monthly briefings and updates,” said Madhuku.

The representatives said however the current environment in Chisumbanje has changed with the all-stakeholders platform being deliberately sabotaged. Meetings that used to resolve disputes and formally engage the investor no longer takes place.

External players are now taking advantage of the absence of formal platforms to cause confusion hoping to harvest from the community conflicts related to the absence of formal communication channels, they alleged.

Green Fuel successfully lobbied for mandatory blending after promising that the US$600 million project would result in, among other things, greater savings in fuel for the country, increased employment opportunities and the generation of electricity enough to power Manicaland province.

However the promises have not been met and earlier this year government was forced to climb down from the compulsory blending of petroleum with 15% ethanol, reducing the amount to 10% ethanol.

The mandatory blending was introduced late last year beginning with 5% before being increased to 10% and later 15%.

Zanu PF Mashonaland West chairperson Temba Mliswa has also added to the Green Fuel controversy with sensational revelations of impropriety on the part of Green Fuel owner Billy Rautenbach, accusing him of lying to the country that he had pumped in US$600 million to kick-start the Chisumbanje project when in fact his investment amounts to a mere US$60 million.

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