BY KENNETH MATIMAIRE
TEMPERS are flaring in Chipinge after ethanol-making company, Green Fuel yesterday moved in to destroy crops and structures owned by over 1 000 households in Chinyamukwakwa village, as the company prepares land for its expansion.
Green Fuel set its security guards, armed with guns and dogs, to suppress any resistance from the hapless villagers, as company tractors destroyed various crops that were ready for harvesting.
The joint venture between State-owned Arda and Macdom, and Ratings Investments, owned by Billy Rautenbach, last month ordered the villagers to vacate their ancestral land to make way for the company’s expansion.
The expansion is mostly affecting the Chinyamukwakwa village out of several other villages under Chipinge’s Ward 28.
However, the two parties had agreed on a two-month window period to allow villagers to harvest their crops, which was due to end in August.
The villagers were assisted by Platform for Youth Development (PYD) — a Chipinge based pressure group — to engage the services of constitutional expert Lovemore Madhuku on June 13.
Madhuku confirmed having engaged the company immediately after his meeting with Chinyamukwakwa villagers, where the company agreed to a two-month grace period.
PYD founder Claris Madhuku said the entire community is shocked by the outrageous act exhibited by Green Fuel.
“I’m actually shocked that this is happening. We engaged the services of a lawyer (Lovemore Madhuku) to negotiate on behalf of the company for a two-month grace period to give the community time to clear their harvests. But we are surprised to wake up to see Green Fuel’s armed security guards with dogs getting into the community declaring war. The community is equally shocked.
“Right now (Thursday morning) there are company tractors that are already destroying crops that were ready for harvesting,” Claris said.
The villagers had planted maize, cotton and sesame, which was almost ready for harvesting.
Memory Zvinongoza, a widow in Chinyamukwakwa Village, is one of the several villagers who had their crops destroyed yesterday morning.
“I received the news from a friend but thought they were joking and rushed to my field only to find everything ploughed into the ground,” Zvinongoza said.
“This was my only source of survival. Things are very difficult during the Covid-19 era and I don’t know how I am going to feed my big family. I have 11 grandchildren that I am looking after,” she said.
Zvinongoza was expecting to harvest seven to eight bales of cotton.
Inquiries by the Zimbabwe Independent indicated that a bale contains between 200-240kg of cotton, fetches an average market price of ZW$18 700 (US220).
Jerry Moyana, another villager, said it is only a matter of time before the company tractors reach his field.
Moyana planted 52 hectares of cotton, 25 hectares of maize and 12 hectares of sesame.
“By the speed at which they are moving to destroy the crops and any property established, I think they will have reached my field in three days’ time (by Monday),” he said.
Moyana said it will take him a month to clear his remaining crops.
Madhuku said he has been alerted of the ordeal and stated that he will file a lawsuit against Green Fuel to force the company to compensate the villagers.
“A lawsuit will definitely follow. We will have to sue the company to compensate the community. They agreed to the two months grace period and what the company is doing is outrageous,” he said.
Madhuku said he suspected the company enjoyed political backing from the ruling Zanu PF stalwarts, which gives it power to disregard people’s rights. Zanu PF is on record taking credit for the investment.
Green Fuel executive Nicole Rautenbach requested questions in writing when asked to comment on the matter. “Please email the questions and I will see if I can get you responses. I’m driving at the moment,” she said.
However, she had not responded at the time of publishing.