Home » Industry » Spanners Thrown Into Rautenbach’s Ethanol Project

Controversial business tycoon, Billy Rautenbach’s proposed multi-million dollar ethanol plant at Nuanetsi Ranch in Mwenezi has hit a snag owing to the infighting among senior ZANU-PF officials in the fractious province. In March, Rautenbach’s Zimbabwe Bio Energy (ZBE) announced plans to set up Zimbabwe’s third ethanol plant at Nuanetsi Ranch in conjunction with the Development Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ) and other private investors.

But the project went off rail after hundreds of people who were displaced by floods at Tokwe-Murkosi were resettled at Nuanetsi. The settlers were made to occupy a portion of the ranch meant for the project. Highly-placed sources said their settlement at Nuanetsi Ranch was meant to scuttle Rautenbach’s project. They alleged a rival faction in the ruling party was throwing spanners into the works, fearing the multi-million dollar project may make their rivals more powerful, financially, if allowed to take off.

“This is the second time that he (Rautenbach) is facing resistance over the project on factional lines. In 2008, he also wanted to set up the same, but had to go to Chisumbanje after being frustrated. While the plans for the project were sent to government for approval, the Masvingo leadership does not want to approve the project.

“The land where the plant is supposed to be established is the one where the villagers from Tokwe-Murkosi have been placed,” a source said, preferring anonymity due to company protocol. ZANU-PF’s senior leadership in Masvingo is said to be divided into two distinct factions: one led by Dzikamai Mavhaire and another by Josiah Hungwe.

Hungwe is linked to Justice Minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa’s camp while Mavhaire is said to belong to Vice President Joice Mujuru’s faction. Provincial Affairs Minister, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, is also said to be sympathetic to Mujuru. Bhasikiti has rubbished claims that the project was being blocked, but refused to shed more light on the matter.

“That is not true… I do not know about the project. Go and ask those who want to set up the plant,” he said before terminating the call. Mavhaire also promised to come back to this reporter when asked about the project, but did not do so by the time of going to print. DTZ resident director for Nuanetsi, Charles Madonko, referred all questions to ZBE spokesperson, Lilian Muungani.

“I cannot comment on that. Muungani is better placed to comment on that, ” said Madonko.

The ethanol project is expected to create 5 000 jobs while at least 2 000 small-scale sugarcane farmers around the area will benefit by supplying their crop to the ethanol plant. Government is mulling plans to develop families that were relocated to Nuanetsi to start farming sugar cane by tapping water from Tokwe-Murkosi dam. Tokwe-Murkosi, set to be completed sometime this year, will become the largest inland water reservoir in the country with a capacity to irrigate over 25 000 hectares.

Source : Financial Gazette