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Chipinge villagers accuse Rautenbach of land grab

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BUSINESSMAN and close ally of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Billy Rautenbach, is in conflict with villagers in Chipinge who are complaining that his company, Green Fuel, is encroaching on their land and elbowing them out.
BRIDGET MANANAVIRE
Rautenbach and Mnangagwa are friends, with both men previously implicated in the alleged plunder of precious minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Green Fuel maintains a monopoly in ethanol production as the sole producer, a position which is being challenged in the courts by an opposition legislator.
Just as in the case of Chilonga, where customary land was being forcibly taken from indigenous communities to benefit businesses linked to Mnangagwa’s friends (Dendairy), so has it been for the Ndau people in Chipinge whose land is now being grabbed for the benefit of Rautenbach’s project.
Villagers and farmers in Chinyamukwakwa and Chisumbanje in Chipinge are now challenging Green Fuel’s takeover of their land.
Their lawyer, Lovemore Madhuku, said they are preparing to file court papers next week.
“There are pre-independence boundaries under the Tribal Trust Land and they define the Green Fuel boundaries because the land Green Fuel is supposed to occupy was the one under the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda).  There’s no post-independence ascertained demarcation,” Madhuku said.
“We have tasked someone who can draw us a map of the demarcation to accompany the application.”
Efforts to get a comment from Green Fuel were fruitless as the questions sent via email were not responded to while phone calls and messages to the person responsible for public relations, Nicole Rautenbach, were not answered.
Claris Madhuku, a community representative and director of civil society organisation the Platform for Youth and Community Development, said the ethanol project was supposed to occupy about 5 000 hectares but is now expected to take up 40 000 hectares, which is about 60% of the district.
“So far the areas that are being threatened are Chinyamukwakwa and Chisumbanje. Since 2012, Green Fuel has been expanding and it is not clear what hectarage Green Fuel is supposed to get.  We understand that they are going to get 40 000 hectares,” Claris said.
“The land they should get is land that belonged to Arda, which is 5 612 hectares, but they have already taken over 15 000 hectares.  The community has a problem with that, as anything outside the Arda land is communal land.”
“There should be engagements as people end up losing the land and homes. The local communities which had been set up for this in 2012 were abandoned.”
More than 2 000 households have been affected to date, according to Claris, translating to over 12 000 people being displaced.
“After they take the 40 000 hectares, they would have gotten 60% of Chipinge district because the land takeover will affect four wards of Chipinge South constituency.  The villagers are also proposing that they remain on the land and be outgrowers,” he said.
Claris said they have also been engaging the district leadership to resolve other conflicts which have arisen, including the ploughing down of villagers’ crops by Green Fuel.
“We have been talking to the district development coordinator (DDC), William Mashava.  In early June, they ploughed down the crops including sesami, maize and cotton. And the engagements led to the two-month grace period,” he said.
“With the issue of compensation, the community feels that the company has not been doing anything. They want 10% of the land taken to be irrigable land, the company has been failing to meet that. There seems to be no supervision from government and it is mainly because of corruption.”
Harare North Member of Parliament and businessman Allan Markham last year approached the High Court for an order to set aside regulations for the mandatory blending of anhydrous ethanol with unleaded petrol.
Markham is challenging the constitutionality of the regulations, which made Billy Rautenbach’s Green Fuel the sole supplier of ethanol for blending purposes in Zimbabwe.
“This is an application I bring before this honourable court for a declaratory order that seeks to set aside the Petroleum (Mandatory Blending of Anhydrous Ethanol with Unleaded Petrol) Regulations that were published in SI 17/2013,” Markham’s application read.
“It is my contentions that the Regulations in question are illegal and nullity on the basis of the following; (i) That the Regulations issued are ultra vires the provisions of the Petroleum Act Chapter 13:22. (ii) The Regulations are in any event, an unlawful usurpation of power by the 1 st Respondent (Chasi) in breach of Section 134 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” he said.
“(iii) That the Regulations create demand side and supply side monopoly and are therefore an infringement of the Competition Act Chapter 14:28. (iv) That the Regulations in any event, are an infringement to my right to equal protection and benefit of the law as protected by Section 56(1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”

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