Green Fuels (Private) Limited, which owns the Chisumbanje ethanol plant has finally resolved its dispute with ZESA Holdings over the financing of a 10 megawatt (MW) power line to transmit the energy resource to the parastatal's grid.
Both sides had been dithering over the establishment of the infrastructure required to tap into the electricity generated at the ethanol plant, which has the capacity to produce 18MW using bio-waste for ethanol manufacture.
Currently, there is no infrastructure to carry electricity from the ethanol plant onto the ZESA grid for distribution across the country.
Following a recent meeting presided over by Energy and Power Development Minister, Dzikamai Mavhaire, the power utility and Green Fuels resolved that they would jointly meet the costs of financing the power line and that its installation be completed by the first week of December.
ZESA was represented at the meeting by its regional manager for the eastern region, Milton Munodawafa while Billy Rautenbach represented Green Fuels.
In terms of the agreed arrangement, the line would transmit power to the national grid where four MW would be reserved for the local communities.
Talks between Green Fuels and ZESA over the installation of the US$100 000 power line had reached a deadlock after the two parties disagreed on who would fund the project.
ZESA, which is hard up for financial resources as it is currently saddled with debts, had requested that Green Fuels solely fund the project, while Rautenbach, the owner of Green Fuels, saw no reason for assuming the responsibility.
The law stipulates that electricity is ultimately owned by ZESA while the infrastructure transporting that power belongs to the government.
In refusing to finance the project, Rautenbach had questioned the logic behind ZESA's request to have his company finance a power line, which they would in turn be charged for.
It had to take Mavhaire's intervention to break the deadlock.
Mavhaire confirmed the development this week.
"ZESA and Green Fuels have agreed to share the cost 50/50. ZESA will pay its part for the electrical unit. We have also agreed that by the first week of December the power line will be transmitted to the electrical grid," he said, adding that the power line would be upgraded whenever there is need to increase output.
"This power line is a temporary line because it's a smaller line. As in when we increase the output, we will also upgrade the current line then to accommodate the projected power current".
Green Fuels general manager, Graham Smith, also confirmed on Tuesday that the dispute was now water under the bridge.
He said Green Fuels has already started purchasing the required equipment for the construction of the power line.
Green Fuels is a joint venture formed in 2008 between the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority, Macdom and Ratings Investments owned by Rautenbach.
During the previous government, intense clashes between the governing parties, the MDC-T and ZANU-PF, disrupted the smooth operations of the plant.
The ethanol plant, which currently produces 220 000 litres of ethanol per day and five megawatts of electricity, has a capacity of producing 700 000 litres of ethanol and 18 megawatts of electricity to be fed into the national grid, once fully operational.
Through petrol blending, the ethanol plant will help the country save more than US$200 000 worth of petrol imports daily and at least US$72 million per year.
Meanwhile, the Chisumbanje community recently forestalled attempts by ZANU-PF officials to reconstitute the District Ethanol Project Implementation Committee (DEPIC), formed to mediate between villagers affected by the ethanol plant and Green Fuels.
The Financial Gazette can reveal that ZANU-PF officials in Chipinge had last month pushed for the reconstitution of the DEPIC, by incorporating former liberation war fighters who are loyal to them.
They had succeeded in calling for early DEPIC elections despite the fact that the serving members were still to complete their term. But their agenda was scuttled after all the current DEPIC members were re-elected into their positions.
All the 10 villages under Headmen Chisumbanje affected by the ethanol project unanimously rejected the machinations, leaving the ZANU-PF officials with egg on their face.
Informed sources said targeted for ouster had been the DEPIC's spokesperson, Claris Madhuku. A director of the Platform for Youth Development (PYD), Madhuku was elected into the committee on a civil society ticket.
Madhuku has since become unpopular among ZANU-PF members angered by his activism and alleged links to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T).
Contacted for comment recently, Madhuku confirmed the development, adding that ZANU-PF officials were unrelenting in their attempts to control DEPIC through their loyalists.
"The call for election was a clear attempt to kick me out of the committee since I am the most vocal person pushing for the interests of the communities," Madhuku told the Financial Gazette.
"ZANU-PF has a corrupt and fraudulent background and now that they won the elections and acquired mandatory blending, they think it's now their time to loot and do whatever the company wants. My organisation (PYD) was given the mandate to mediate on behalf of the community. Before the July 31 elections, we were all speaking with one voice but after ZANU-PF won, there has been several politically motivated clashes orchestrated by the war-veterans district leader to replace me," Madhuku said.
As part of its duties, DEPIC is supposed to ensure that the interests of the surrounding communities are met.
It consists of members from the President's Office, the Chipinge Rural District Council, the Agriculture Extension Services, ARDA, Green Fuels, Chipinge district administrator, Edgar Seenza and the civil society.