By Victor Fanuel
CHIPINGE- A locally based organization, Platform for Youth and Community Development (PYCD), has stated that the decade-long land dispute between Green Fuel and Chipinge villagers is still ongoing and unresolved, despite claims by the green energy company that both parties reached an agreement.
Green Fuel, owned by controversial businessman Billy Rautenchback, attempted to evict over 1,000 households in disputed land bordering its multimillion-dollar ethanol plant in Chisumbanje in July last year.
Chipinge villagers filed a lawsuit against Green Fuel, claiming that there was no legal basis for removing them from their ancestral land.
Claris Madhuku, the director of PYCD, which has been advocating for villagers in the ongoing land dispute said the relationship between Green Fuel and the villagers remained tainted by unresolved boundary issues and an unclear beneficial mode, which has been exacerbated by political interference.
“Government should be aware that PYCD is always speaking on behalf of the local communities whose voice has been muzzled by the project’s overemphasis on national privileges of contributing fuel while focusing less on the unresolved land boundary issues and unmet compensation promises.
“Currently Green fuel has not tabled sustainable compensation for the local communities, which PYCD is currently negotiating with relevant stakeholders including government.
“If the government concentrates on silencing the local communities, that will be wrong and going against the policy of President ED Mnangagwa who has repeatedly announced that the voice of the people is the voice of God,” said Madhuku.
Green Fuel, in an effort to demonstrate its commitment to community development, divided a portion of the seized land into one-acre plots of irrigated land to allow affected families to make a living by planting crops that use water drawn over many kilometers at the company’s expense.
Although some villagers welcomed Green Fuel’s noble gesture, others felt it was not appropriate development to address all the concerns of local farmers.
The absence of a stakeholders committee comprised of villagers, Green Fuel, and government representatives has exacerbated the land dispute, as the previous committee was disbanded due to political interference.
Madhuku said attempts by senior government officials to abuse loopholes in the communal lands act to prioritize Green Fuel and disenfranchise local villagers from their ancestral land was tantamount reversing the gains of the hard won liberation struggle.
“Government can use the gaps in the communal lands act, but it will be clear that this will be equivalent to benefiting from colonial laws in an independent Zimbabwe birthed from a hard won liberation struggle.
“The local people are not sophisticated, they understand government but at the same time understands that an investor cannot be allowed to be above government
“The local community will continue to argue that the land in dispute is communal land with the communities having a very strong claim since early 1920s before the coming of ARDA and Greenfuel Pvt Ltd,” concluded Madhuku.