Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti has crossed swords with businessman Billy Rautenbach and the Development Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ) who accuse him of frustrating their plans to establish Zimbabwe’s second ethanol plant at Nuanetsi Ranch in the province’s Mwenezi District.
Herbert Moyo/Elias Mambo
Rautenbach, who already owns the Chisumbanje Ethanol plant in Manicaland province, entered into a partnership with the DTZ resulting in the formation of a company called Zimbabwe Bio-Energy in 2008 as the vehicle for the implementation of the ethanol project.
The DTZ, which owns Nuanetsi Ranch, was established in 1989 by the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo with President Robert Mugabe as patron.
However, Presidential spokesperson George Charamba said the DTZ was never a private initiative but “a government initiative with Nkomo and Mugabe as the patrons. I am saying this to clarify the misconception around the ownership but I cannot say much about the Bhasikiti-Rautenbach conflict as I do not have full facts on the matter”.
A war of words has erupted between Bhasikiti and DTZ resident director Charles Madonko over Nuanetsi Ranch.
While Madonko has accused Bhasikiti and the Zanu PF provincial leadership of hindering the establishment of the ethanol plant, the provincial minister has hit back, describing the DTZ resident director as a “chief sell-out”.
Madonko told the Zimbabwe Independent that the Masvingo provincial leadership and Bhasikiti were hampering the Nuanetsi project by resettling people displaced by Tokwe-Murkosi floods on the Chingwizi section of the Ranch, which DTZ had earmarked for sugar cane irrigation.
“When the Tokwe-Murkosi flood disaster occurred, the Chingwizi section of Nuanetsi was immediately targeted for the relocation of the flood victims. It has to be made clear that DTZ is not contesting the need to preserve life by resettling people and decongesting the holding camp,” said Madonko.
He said they have “since written a letter of complaint to the Ministry of Lands highlighting the grave concern that Bhasikiti has not only refused to communicate with DTZ over Chingwizi, but has deviated from the cabinet map confining the resettlement of the flood victims on the Northern sections of the ranch, and instead pushed people further into the ranch into areas specifically meant for the Ethanol Project”.
In response, Bhasikiti insisted Nuanetsi Ranch is in fact state land and accused Madonko of entering into a dubious arrangement with Rautenbach without government approval.
“Government has been resettling people on state land and then we hear Madonko saying that Bhasikiti is taking Nkomo’s land. If we use his own statement then clearly he is the chief sell-out entering into a dubious arrangement with a white man to give away 70% of Nkomo’s land,” said Bhasikiti.
Bhasikiti also accused Rautenbach of dishonesty, saying the businessman was initially welcomed into Masvingo to start the ethanol project in 2008, only to jump ship and go to Chisumbanje because he did not want to contribute to funding the construction of Tokwe-Murkosi dam which would have provided water for the sugar plantation.
“He (Rautenbach) came here during the 2006-2007 period seeking to set up an ethanol plant and we gave him maximum support. He proceeded to clear land for the sugar cane plantation but he abandoned that upon hearing that there was Arda land in Chisumbanje,” said Bhasikiti in an interview on Wednesday.
“He is not very honest. At one time he pledged to fund the construction of the Tokwe-Murkosi Dam but he took off and went to Chisumbanje without paying a cent. Now that Tokwe-Murkosi is almost complete he comes back.”
However, speakers took turns to attack the provincial leadership for delaying the ethanol project at a meeting at Nuanetsi Ranch last Saturday, which brought together Zimbabwe Bio-Energy representatives and the local community.
The meeting was organised by DTZ to engage the local community on its projects.
“We know the person who is doing all this. We gave him a job by voting for him and now he is frustrating the ethanol project,” said one local headman, who refused to be named, in the presence of Chiefs Maranda and Neshuro.