Chisumbanje — CHISUMBANJE Ethanol Plant should be reopened urgently to benefit the country, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara said yesterday.
Green Fuel, which is a joint venture project between Macdom Investments, Rating and Arda, runs the ethanol plant.
Arda board chairman Mr Basil Nyabadza urged political leaders to stop sabotaging the project.
Green Fuel, which employs over 4 500 workers, was shut in February.
DPM Mutambara, who is leading an eight-member Cabinet Committee on the Chisumbanje Ethanol Project, said the responsible authorities should address concerns that stakeholders had raised.
He said his committee sought to address issues that led to the plant's closure.
"We want the plant to open, but we should address all the challenges around its closure.
"We came here on a fact-finding mission to see the challenges because we understand that there are challenges around pricing, working conditions, issue of mandatory blending, resettlement of farmers and politics, among other issues.
"This is work in progress and we want to have a comprehensive and holistic ecosystem approach to address this issue. We want to attend to every constituency involved in this project," he said.
Despite the challenges facing the project, a solution should be found to get the project back on course.
Earlier on, DPM Mutambara addressed more than 1 000 workers at the plant.
He assured them that operations would resume soon.
Chairperson of the workers committee Mr Orphan Baregawa said Government should put in place mandatory blending.
"What we want is mandatory blending. The use of ethanol is not new in Zimbabwe because we have been doing this in Triangle during the colonial era. This is a great opportunity for Zimbabwe to do away with fuel shortages," he said.
DPM Mutambara also held another meeting with local traditional leaders.
Traditional leaders said that while they welcomed the Green Fuel project, they were not happy with their exclusion from a committee that was spearheading the implementation of the project.
House of Assembly Member for Chipinge South Mr Meki Makuyana said he was not consulted before the project commenced.
He claimed that some villagers were forced to relocate to Mozambique after they were dispossessed of their land to pave way for the Green Fuel Project.
However, Mr Nyabadza said claims against the project should be backed by facts.
"We are concerned with loose non-factual statements which are coming from various leaders concerning the ethanol project.
"We urge all leaders to be factual and be able to pick up their statements by facts on the ground, otherwise unfounded continuous allegations amount to serious sabotage of the project. We are now at a stage where factual information is helpful to the development of the project. Anyone who says statements that are not backed by facts will be reported to relevant authorities for perjury," he said.
DPM Mutambara said he would be leading another team of Cabinet ministers on Sunday to gather more information on challenges besetting the project. Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Olivia Muchena, Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development Sithembiso Nyoni, Minister Lands and Rural Resettlement Herbert Murerwa, Minister of State Enterprises and Parastatals Gorden Moyo and Minister of Public Works Joel Gabuza accompanied the DPM.
Green Fuel produces anhydrous ethanol, which is a product of advanced distillation technologies. Anhydrous ethanol is a product of high quality which blends efficiently with unleaded petroleum as opposed to the hydrous (with water) ethanol previously used in Zimbabwe.
Ethanol uptake by oil companies remains low due to logistical challenges that most fuel retail outlets do not have additional storage for a third product in the form of E10.
Green Fuel's vision is to build three ethanol plants each with an annual capacity of 240 million litres to meet Zimbabwe's domestic requirements and exporting the balance while generating 120 megawatts of electricity.
It also intends to place 8 000 rural households from within Chipinge under small-scale irrigation horticulture from the current dry land farming.
If Government puts in place mandatory blending, it would save over US$200 000 per day.