HARARE – Minister of Energy and Power Development has vowed to continue resisting the revival of a $600million ethanol project in the Chisumbanje area until villagers concerns have been adddressed.
Speaking for the first time about the stand-off that saw him almost manhandled by angry Green Fuels workers last week for shutting down the plant and pushing them out of employment, Mangoma told an MDC newsletter the displacement of hundreds of communal farmers in Chisumbanje by Zanu PFpoliticians and businessman Billy Rautenbach was “callous and heartless.”
He said he could not stomach watching hundreds of communal farmers losing their land as Zanu PF politicians who include Didymus Mutasa are kicking them out of the land in order to pave way for Rautenbach’s Green Fuels project in the area.
The move taken by the Zanu PF officials has seen some of the now landless farmers relocating and resettling in neighbouring Mozambique, he said.
In 2009, Rautenbach was given access by Mutasa and ARDA chairman Basil Nyabadza to take over 5 100 hectares of land at ARDA’s Chisumbanje Estate to grow sugarcane which would be used in the production of ethanol fuel.
Mutasa is the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in the President’s Office.
On 19 March 2009, 16 days after the formation of the inclusive government, Mutasa signed a letter authorising Rautenbach to operate the ethanol project at ARDA’s Chisumbanje Estate but never disclosed this to Cabinet, Mangoma said.
Mutasa went on and assisted Rautenbach in seizing an additional 8 000 hectares of land belonging to villagers.
“Rautenbach is one of the unclear people in southern Africa. As the minister responsible for fuel, I am being treated as a common criminal by raising the illegality of Rautenbach’s operations yet I am not,” said Mangoma.
“How can one person be allowed to take land away from thousands of people when we are embarking on land reform for the landless majority? We went to war in order to take the land but now we are being forced off that land.
“It is callous and heartless. I am prepared to go on a one man crusade in order to protect the poor. Rautenbach’s project must make peace with the villagers. Zanu PF and Billy have gone beyond and have taken over communal land,” said Mangoma.
The minister said Zanu PF and Rautenbach were “bullies” and the people were suffering.
“We have bullies and the people are suffering and I am on their side. I am not against workers. Investigations done have shown that contrary to reports that Green Fuels employed 5 000 people, the figure was less and the workers were being paid a paltry US$2.00 a day or $60.00 a month. Investigations revealed that Green Fuels was not remitting any taxes to organisations such as NSSA.
“I am not a fascist and I am there to give people choice and freedom,” said Mangoma.
He shrugged off attempts by Rautenbach to try and arm twist the government into forcing mandatory blending of fuel for all motorists.
Mangoma said despite calling for mandatory blending at all fuel stations, Green Fuels had not put in place logistics on how it will blend the fuel.
“These are the practical and logistical issues that must be clear to everyone. But Green Fuels just wants me to put in place mandatory blending when Cabinet is working on it. Cabinet is working on it and why must I run ahead of everyone,” said Mangoma.
“Last year, I was arrested on two occasions for doing something that I was doing in terms of the law. But now they want me to do something outside the law.
“Zanu PF ministers are the ones who are in the habit of running with policies that have not been approved by Cabinet as is clearly demonstrated by Saviour Kasukuwere in his Zanu PF indigenisation nonsense which was not well thought out.
“Since the MDC became part of the inclusive government, we now have no fuel problems. Green Fuels want to create a fuel problem. My preoccupation is to make Harare the hub to supply the whole of Central Africa with fuel.”
Green Fuels is selling the ethanol fuel for US$1 a litre despite the fact that other producers the world over retail the commodity at around US$0.65 to US$075, he said.
“The people will ask who is benefiting by overcharging them. We have liberalised the fuel sector and there is nothing to stop the company from opening their own service stations to sell their product if it is productive.
“This is a private initiative and therefore the sole responsibility of the investor to make it work,” said Mangoma