Zvamaida Murwira recently in Chisumbanje
Villagers in Chisumbanje led by their community leaders have urged ethanol producing firm — Green Fuel — to fulfil promises that it made when it displaced them five years ago to pave way for its operations.Traditional leaders, farmers, war veterans and workers were united against Green Fuel, saying it had not compensated them after it took away their land and destroyed some of their crops in its bid to assume production of ethanol which is now being blended with petrol.
This came out during a tour by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment chaired by Gokwe Nembudziya legislator Cde Justice Mayor Wadyajena (Zanu-PF).
The tour, which saw the committee receiving evidence from villagers, was supported by the Parliament of Zimbabwe in conjunction with one of its partners, South African Parliamentary Support Trust, as part of its efforts to have an appreciation of operations at the firm.
Local traditional leader Chief Garahwa rapped Green Fuel for failing to compensate them after taking vast tracts of land, which he said his subjects had traditionally relied upon through farming operations.
“It is not fair for Green Fuel to just exploit the land and benefiting alone at the exclusion of villagers,” said Chief Garahwa, during a briefing at the firm’s offices.
Speaking at the same occasion, headman Garahwa (brother to Chief Garahwa), said villagers had stopped farming cotton with the coming in of Green Fuel which not only dispossessed them of their land, but had promised to compensate and support them.
“We are now failing to send our children to school because we no longer have any land to plough,” he said. “During the past five years, we have not been farming cotton, but nothing has come out from Green Fuel. We have no land.”
During a hearing convened at Chisumbanje Business Centre, villagers, war veterans and workers at the plant subsequently took turns to lambast Green Fuel, saying it was failing to treat water which they said was dirty and exposed them to diseases.
Some of the villagers claimed that they had contracted water-borne diseases because of the filthy nature of the water which Green Fuel discharged.
One farmer complained that while Green Fuel was buying their sugar cane at US$4 per tonne, other companies like Triangle were paying US$70 per tonne.
“Even at that low price, we still have not been paid by Green Fuel,” said one villager.
Other villagers castigated their parliamentary representative, Chipinge South legislator Cde Enock Porusingazi, for not coming back to them to find common ground, in the wake of the intransigence by Green Fuel.
One villager, Ms Runesu Makuyana, accused Cde Porusingazi of turning his back on them yet when Green Fuel initially came, they used to fight together to have their concerns of compensation addressed.
Cde Porusingazi, who was part of the touring committee, said in an interview that while concerns raised by the villagers were genuine, he had not relented on reminding Green Fuel on its obligations to the community.
“I have approached them several times, but they have complained about their cash flow which they said was not yet optimal,” he said. “They have given me their plan which they envisaged to achieve in a given period when revenue would have improved.”
Other villagers complained about the unavailability of grazing land for their cattle, saying most of the land had been taken away by Green Fuel.
Workers’ committee chairperson Mr Alton Shumba, alleged that Green Fuel employees were ill-treated.
Mr Shumba said most workers’ committee members have in the past been expelled from work under unclear circumstances.
War veteran Cde James Maphosa said they would soon hold a public protest if Green Fuel fails to address concerns raised by villagers.
Green Fuel assistant general manager Mr Raphael Zuze told legislators that the firm was aiming to increase ethanol production from 72 million litres per year to 120 million litres per year.
He said this would increase their revenue and address some of the challenges the company was facing.