Chisumbanje — A local ethanol producing company, Green Fuels has been accused of confiscating villagers' cattle that would have strayed in the sugarcane plantations and selling them to the company's staff at paltry prices through auction.
Villagers who spoke to The Standard last week said they were losing a lot of livestock, mostly cattle to Green Fuels, who are using the Stock Trespass Act to confiscate their livestock.
The Act provides for the impounding of stray livestock.
Green Fuels owns two estates --Rating Investments and Macdom Investments -- that grow sugarcane which is used in the production of ethanol.
According to the villagers' representative, Oliver Chikumba, people living in areas such as Kondo, Mwacheta, Maronga and Musapingura have lost scores of their livestock through the auctions.
"Security guards at Green Fuels impound cattle and donkeys they find near their sugarcane fields.
"They will charge US$4 for one beast for a day and if the owner fails to pay the amount, they will auction the livestock among themselves for just a few dollars," explained Chikumba.
He said the company had a provision for owners of the cattle to work at the plantations as a general hand until such a time when they cleared the arrears.
"With the meagre wages they are paying, one will work for several months to save his or her livestock from being auctioned," said Chikumba.
"We have evidence of cattle which were sold for US$30 each and donkeys which were auctioned for just US$3 each.
"In rural areas, people's wealth is invested in livestock and destroying people's wealth in such a manner is disheartening considering that this is our source of livelihood."
He called on the government to protect the villagers before they lost all their animals.
The Standard saw some receipts bearing the Green Fuels Estate, Rating Investments logo, where villagers were made to pay a fine to get back their cattle.
One was receipt number 17701 of September 9 this year, when one Innocent Maposa paid US$224 to recover eight of his cattle that were kept for seven days by Rating Investment's security.
Chipinge council enforcing stock trespass act
Green Fuels spokesperson Lilian Muungani said it was Chipinge Rural District Council that was responsible for enforcing the Stock Trespass Act.
"In line with the Acts governing the operations of local authorities, the Chipinge Rural District Council is the authority over all cattle impound fees and stray animal auctioning programmes. Where the local authority has no infrastructure to directly administer such by laws, affected institutions are issued with licences," said Muungani.
"As such, we had been running a council sanctioned and registered animals impound programme in order to prevent the damage being done to the crops by villagers intentionally herding their cattle into the crop."
She added that Green Fuels was cognisant of the social value of cattle in the area and there were plans to assist villagers with livestock feeds.