CHISUMBANJE — About 300 000 families could be displaced in Chisumbanje if a company that is setting up an Ethanol Plant, Macdom, goes ahead with its plans to acquire 40 000 hectares of land in the area.
Macdom is leasing the land from State-owned Arda. Spokesperson for the affected villagers, Gwenzi Wedzerai, told NewsDay the firm had started growing sugarcane on 5 112 hectares and had indicated it would want to acquire more land so as to meet its target of 80 000 kilolitres of Ethanol per day.
“We thought this project was going to bring relief to the people of Chisumbanje but it’s actually displacing them,” said Wedzerai.
He added 83 families from Rimayi and Chinyamukwakwa villages had been forced to relocate to neighbouring Mozambique after the company encroached into communal plots and ploughed down their crops.
“The only people that have received compensation are war veterans who got $600 and they are using these people to intimidate villagers opposed to the project,” said Wedzerai.
The villagers also alleged they were struggling to raise penalties for their livestock which stray into the sugarcane plantations.
The company allegedly demanded $20 per head and villagers claimed they ended up selling some of them to pay the fine.
“Villagers are being forced to sell some of their livestock for them to be able to pay the penalty,” said Wedzerai, adding they had presented their grievances to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who had promised to look into the issue.
Although strenuous efforts to get comment from Macdom were unsuccessful, Arda chairman Basil Nyabadza said the issue was being blown out of proportion.
“Everything that we have been doing in Chisumbanje has been out of consensus with the villagers, but maybe out of 10 villagers you get two who say something. I think, we need to meet and sit down and talk about it,” Nyabadza.