Clashes at Chisumbanje Ethanol plant “politically motivated”

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New clashes between local villagers and the police in the Nyamukwakwa area of Manicaland have been attributed to activists within ZANU PF, who are allegedly instructing the police and officials at the Greenfuels Company to act against the community.

According to Claris Madhuku, director of the Platform for Youth Development Trust, there have been new clashes since ZANU PF claimed a landslide victory in the July 31st elections. Some individuals within the party are allegedly using this electoral victory to implement measures that benefit them, and not the community.

Speaking just after another meeting of the District Ethanol Implementation Committee (DEPIC), Madhuku said the problem is that the controversial Greenfuels Company has been acting without giving enough information to the community. Borders that were agreed upon are also being ignored without any warning.

“Actually for the past five days there have been new arrests, where the boundary clashes are starting again. In fact the community still questions the area that the company are now developing. There is still not enough information in terms of how they want to develop and up to where,” Madhuku explained.

Recent clashes led to the arrests of Jeremiah Nyamunda, Mike Mashava, Phineaus Muyambo and Taurai Makuyana. The four protestors were detained for five hours on August 31st and they were released only after about 100 community activists descended on the police station demanding their release.

“Recently just after the election some members of the community, who might be aligned to the party that has won, feel that those representing the community in DEPIC need a new mandate. So the confrontations are being instigated clearly at a political level,” Madhuku said.

He alleges that Greenfuels appears to be taking orders from these new elements, who are pushing for changes that benefit individuals within ZANU PF. They do not take the community into account and this has led to the recent clashes with police.
The community representatives, including the Madhuku himself, are now considering an end to their participation in DEPIC, which was formed under Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.

According to reports Colonel Robson Matonhodze, a senior executive at Greenfuels, confirmed the clashes on Wednesday and denied claims that the company was extending its boundary into the communal village.

There have been numerous incidents surrounding the Chisumbanje plant this year. Back in May, 11 workers from the project were released from police custody after being cleared of any involvement in a fire that destroyed about US$5 million worth of sugar cane.

The workers had been picked up for questioning by police after state media reports fuelled speculation the fire was deliberately set as an attempt to stop ‘success’ at the idle ethanol plant. The reports alleged that success at the plant would help ZANU PF boost their political ground in Manicaland province. It later emerged that the 11 arrested workers were targeted in an attempt to cover up a mistake by the ethanol project’s management.

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