By Garikai Mafirakureva
Scores of displaced Chisumbanje and Chinyamukwakwa villagers in Chipinge, are reported to have resettled in neighbouring Mozambique, after losing their ancestral land to Green Fuel Pvt Ltd.
Business mogul Billy Rautenbach is said to have a 90% stake in Green Fuel through Macdom Investments with government owning 10%.
Since June 2021, Green Fuel guards have allegedly been beating up villagers, destroying their homes and ploughing down their crops.
Headman Chinyamukwakwa confirmed the development and accused the government of lying to Zimbabweans that the war of liberation was fought to repossess stolen land from whites.
“Thousands of Chisumbanje and Chinyamukwakwa villagers under Chief Garawa, are now based in Mozambique,” Chinyamukwakwa said.
“They had their homes razed down by armed guards from Green Fuel and their crops ploughed down.
“This government and its white friends should not continue driving people out of the country.
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“People went to war to reclaim their land, which the whites stole from us aeons ago, but now this government is taking land from black people and giving it back to the whites. What kind of a government is that?
“We were given presidential inputs, but the crops were ploughed down.
“What are we going to tell the president when questions are asked about the expected yield?”
One of the community leaders, Jerry Moyana, said the community used to work for the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) way back before the land was leased to Green Fuel.
“Our parents used to work in Arda picking cotton, but they never had any problems with it.” Moyana said.
“Arda had it’s demarcation and fenced their area, but Green Fuel, which now owns the Arda land, is now encroaching into our land.
“Most villagers are now trekking down to Mozambique, but they have lived of here since 1967 working on their three-hectare pieces land.
“People are now spending nights sleeping in the open on their way to Mozambique because they have nowhere to run.
“In the late 70s and the 80s when we were of school-going age, we used to work on the Arda farm picking cotton.
“We did not have any problem with that like what we are experiencing now with Green Fuel.”
Claris Madhuku, director for Platform for Youth and Community Development (PYCD), who is working with the community, said they were still assessing the value of the destruction since June.
According to Madhuku, in June alone 1.5 hectares of sesame, 8.5 hectares of cotton and 14.5 hectares of maize were ploughed down.
“There are players who are threatening villagers claiming to represent the president, the employees or the local authority,” Madhuku said.
“The matter is before the courts after Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights approached the court on behalf of the community, on December 10, 2018.
“However, in June this year, the company started harassing villagers again and that was when they engaged Lovemore Madhuku to represent them.”
Green fuel corporate social responsibility manager Nicole Mollet was not picking calls and did not respond to questions sent to her.
The MDC Alliance Youth Assembly has joined growing voices condemning the displacement of Chinyamukwakwa villagers.
Stephen Sarkozy Chuma, the party’s youth wing national spokesperson, said it was clear Rautenbach was working in cahoots with Zanu PF top officials to drive black Africans off their land.
“The grave quietness of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government on the Chinyamukwakwa land saga is loud enough to confirm our fears,” Chuma said.
“If this Zanu PF government is genuine about the land question, then the madness in Chinyamukwakwa must stop.
“Imagine African families living peacefully in their communal lands and suddenly a crude European capitalist comes and pushes them away from their ancestral lands in the name of pursuing ‘a Green Fuel’ project.”
Zanu PF national spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said he could not comment on the matter because the MDC Alliance had no proof that the ruling party was involved.
“Let them give you proof that Zanu PF is part of the skirmishes and displacements going on,” Khaya Moyo said.
“In fact, let them go and report to the police if they find anything incriminating Zanu PF.”
The villagers’ woes are said to have started in 2008 after Green Fuel represented by Macdom Investments, acquired the right to lease land measuring 5 112 hectares from Arda, where it built an ethanol plant.
The company started to encroach into surrounding communal lands in Chisumbanje, Chinyamukwakwa and Matikwa villages without consultation with the community.
The seized land has since increased to over 9, 375 hectares. Green Fuel is said to be targeting 45 000 hectares of land.
In 2012 an inter-ministerial cabinet taskforce headed by the then deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara was despatched to Chisumbanje to help solve the sour relationship between Green Fuel and the community. Although the taskforce proffered several recommendations, the company is said to have ignored them.
The company is said to be operating with impunity, ignoring rules of the land.
It allegedly has not undertaken corporate social responsibility activities since its inception in 2010.
This is despite that the current plant can produce 120 million litres of fuel per annum, which translates to more than US$120 million.
On July 11, 2014 a parliamentary portfolio committee on youth development, indigenisation and economic empowerment visited Chisumbanje on a fact-finding mission.
It established that the land was not lying idle as claimed by the company, but was being used by the villagers for crop production, livestock grazing and for other cultural purposes since 1967.
The committee noted that Green Fuel was granted an ethanol blending licence despite not fulfilling the 51/49% joint venture with government according to Statutory Instrument (SI)17 of 2013 on mandatory blending, which indicates the company’s connectedness with those in the corridors of power.
The committee also gathered from the community and the Environmental Management Agency that Green Fuel had been discharging toxic effluent into Jerawachera stream, Musazvi river and eventually into Save river leading to livestock and aquatic deaths due to polluted water downstream.
The committee also discovered that the company was operating in complete disregard of the law after it was informed that from the onset of the project in June 2010, Green Fuel was required to do a full Environmental Impact Assessment study, but they proceeded to implement the project without it, in contravention of the law.
Although it was ticketed for violating the law, and ordered to cease operations and regularise, the company refused to sign the order and continued operating.
It was also established that the company was employing unlicensed and reckless drivers whose poor driving had led to 15 fatal accidents involving children in the area.