Govt defends Rautenbach’s ethanol project

Billy Rauntenbach

GOVERMENT has said it would defend business tycoon Billy Rauntenbach’s ethanol project in Chisumbanje where Chipinge villagers have been objecting to the operations following a land dispute.

Rautenbach’s Green Fuel is in a partnership with Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) which contributed over 20 000 hectares of land at the centre of an ownership dispute with the villagers.

Green Fuel enjoys a monopoly in the provision of ethanol for petrol blending .

Addressing villagers in Chinyamukwakwa area in Chisumbanje on Saturday, Lands and Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka described Rautenbach’s ethanol project as a “national programme”, adding that government had no tolerance for naysayers.

“We are here in the Garahwa community for this partnership between Green Fuel and Arda on vast hectares of land which they were given to carry out a national programme of sugarcane farming to produce ethanol that is blended with petrol,” Masuka said.

“The value of Green Fuel to our country is that every year it produces 80 million litres of ethanol which is ferried to Harare that will be blended with imported petrol to make it E20 petrol. Green Fuel is a very important company in the country, that is why we will not tolerate disrupters. If we hear that Green Fuel has been disrupted from producing we start to question, wapindwa nemweya waLegion here? (Have you been possessed by the spirit of Legion?).  Please reprimand each other against daydreaming and do not try to disturb national programmes.”

Rautenbach is one of the few white commercial farmers who was offered land at the height of the country’s compulsory land acquisition programme in 2000 that saw the majority of white former commercial farmers losing their land.

The ethanol company has set up community irrigation schemes in the Chinyamukwakwa area, which are benefiting hundreds of communal farmers.

Hundreds of villagers have also been engaged for various menial jobs in the Green Fuel sugarcane fields and ethanol production factory.

Green Fuel spokesperson Merit Rumema said: “Prior to the ethanol project, Chipinge district was considered one of the least developed areas in Zimbabwe owing to the harsh region five climatic conditions. Currently, over US$2 million is injected into Chipinge south every month in the form of salaries and procurement finance, which has resulted in significantly increased commercial traffic. Local businesses are thriving and social services such as healthcare facilities, roads, churches and schools continue to be refurbished and revived by Green Fuel.”

Green Fuel plans to scale up production, targeting to produce 90 million litres of ethanol next year.

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