BUSINESSMAN Billy Rautenbach’s plans for a second ethanol project at the Development Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ)-owned Nuanetsi Ranch in Masvingo may suffer a still birth due to his failure to cede 51% ownership in his Chisumbanje Ethanol plant to the government in terms of the indigenisation law.
Rautenbach, who already owns the Chisumbanje Ethanol plant in Manicaland province, entered into a partnership with the DTZ resulting in the formation of a company called Zimbabwe Bio-Energy in 2008 as the vehicle for the implementation of the ethanol project in Mwenezi district.
DTZ is a trust company run by the family of the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo.
The project was initially supposed to be implemented in 2008, but failed to kick off amid bickering between Zimbabwe Bio-Energy and the Masvingo provincial leadership over various issues including water rights to Manyuchi Dam.
It was also complicated by demands that Rautenbach participate in funding the construction of Tokwe-Mukosi Dam, a development which led to the businessman moving to establish the Chisumbanje plant.
Over the past few weeks, Rautenbach and his DTZ partners have indicated their desire to establish the project, but have complained of being frustrated by Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti whom they accuse of settling displaced villagers on the Chingwizi part of the ranch which was earmarked for sugarcane production.
However, Bhasikiti dismissed the claims saying apart from the fact that Nuanetsi Ranch was government land, Rautenbach was “a crook who still has unfinished business with the government in Chisumbanje where he has not ceded 51% ownership as required by the law”.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba also appeared to back Bhasikiti last week.
“Rautenbach still has issues he needs to address concerning the shareholding in Chisumbanje,” he said. “Nuanetsi Ranch belongs to the government and ultimately the government will have the final say on what happens there.”
In March, Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire said Green Fuel was awarded a licence to blend fuel on the understanding that it would comply with the Indigenisation Act that requires indigenous Zimbabweans to own at least 51% of any venture valued at $500 000 or more.
Green Fuel is a joint venture between Rautenbach’s Macdom and Rating Investments and State-owned Arda (Agricultural and Rural Development Authority) at its estates in Chisumbanje, Manicaland.
According to Arda, the government’s contribution to the project is $36,7 million, inclusive of land, while Green Fuel’s contribution is valued at $331,8 million.
During a media tour of Chisumbanje last month, Arda board chairperson Basil Nyabadza acknowledged the need to comply with indigenisation laws, but said Green Fuel would eventually do so after clearing loans it contracted in establishing the project.
Nyabadza said funders of the ethanol project included American, Brazilian and British investors.