5 May 2013

Zimbabwe: Committee Seeks Mugabe's Help in Chisumbanje Row

A committee tasked with ensuring communication between the local community and the developers of the Chisumbanje ethanol project wants President Robert Mugabe to intervene so that the multi-million dollar venture could be revived.

The project stopped operations in 2011 after it reached its storage capacity as there was no local uptake of the commodity.

The District Ethanol Project Implementation Committee (Depic) wrote to Mugabe on Thursday requesting a meeting with him, his deputy Joice Mujuru, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Deputy PMs Arthur Mutambara and Thokozani Khupe and the investor Billy Rautenbach. The meeting would discuss how the plant would get back on track.

Depic is composed of Chief Garahwa, MP Meki Makuyana, local headmen, district administrator, councillors, police, members of the President's office and community representatives, among others.

"We believe that meeting with all the concerned parties at once will facilitate prompt and decisive action to ensure that the Chisumbanje Ethanol Plant is reopened immediately," reads part the letter. "The 13 members of Depic shall be arriving on Sunday [today] and shall be available at your convenience."

Cabinet recently approved a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the ownership of the Chisumbanje ethanol and it now awaits scrutiny from the Attorney General's office.

The MOA would effectively give government a 51% shareholding in the ethanol plant with the remainder owned by Billy Rautenbach's companies.

Initially, the project was a 20-year Build, Operate and Transfer between the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda) and Rautenbach's Ratings and Macdom.

Government recently introduced a 5% mandatory blending for petrol which analysts say would save US$2 million monthly in imports. The country imports at least 30 million litres of petrol per month.

But Depic say the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority has to issue the blending licence for the exercise to take place at 10% and not 5%.

'MUGABE HAS THE SOLUTION TO THIS IMPASSE'

Claris Madhuku, Depic spokesperson, said the idea of seeking Mugabe's help came as a resolution of Thursday's meeting.

"It was agreed that the solution lies in high offices as all other offices are politicking.

"We are convinced that the issue will be solved once and for all. A team from Depic will be in Harare on Sunday [today] and return to Chisumbanje once the case is solved," Madhuku said yesterday.

Depic was formed in December last year by the inter-ministerial taskforce on Chisumbanje and have a mandate to resolve any problems the project may face.

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