Bickering stalls Zimbabwe’s Rautenbach’s Mwenezi ethanol project

Ethanol plant14 July 2014, Harare – Small dilapidated houses with their roofs falling, straddle for kilometres along the Ngundu-Triangle road and vandalised irrigation infrastructure are all that remains from business magnate, Billy Rautenbach’s dream of setting up an ethanol plant in Masvingo.

The houses, built using expensive bricks, lie derelict and neglected, yet this was supposed to be the country’s second ethanol project before Chisumbanje came into the picture.

They were built in 2008 to cater for people that he, through his company Zimbabwe Bio-Energy (ZBE), wanted to move off the land where he wanted to set up the plant in the vast Nuanetsi Ranch in Mwenezi.

He also brought state-of-the-art irrigation equipment for one-hectare plots where the villagers would have to be resettled and set up offices and a workshop at the site.

Just opposite, blasted quarry stones lie in heaps, with grass outgrowing the piles meant for construction of offices and houses.

But six years down the line, the project remains still-born due to political bickering caused by factionalism in the ruling Zanu PF party.

“We could have set up a plant here before moving to Chisumbanje. The resources that were meant for this ethanol plant were however re-channelled to the Chisumbanje plant after spanners were thrown in the way,” a senior employee at ZBE said on condition of anonymity due to company protocol.

A fierce but subtle factional battleby politicians to strategically position themselves for an eventual takeover from 90-year-old President Robert Mugabe, is said to be responsible for the failure of the project takeoff.

For being with the wrong faction at the wrong time, sources said, Billy was frustrated until he abandoned the area.

“Factionalism took centre stage as the project could have financially made another faction stronger and it just died like that. That is why you see those houses were just left to rot,” said an official.

Another source said a frustrated Billy then moved to Chisumbanje where he set up the current plant that has got its fair share of problems.


– The Standard

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