Macdom Investments demands money from Chisumbanje communal farmers

Macdom Investments, owner of the Chisumbanje ethanol plant, is demanding $2.4 m from its communal farmers as compensation for the land the company developed for them in 2009. After Macdom Investments took over Chisumbanje Estate from the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority  (Arda), it also took over 410ha from the communal farmers who were operating separately from the government-controlled agriculture agency which resulted in the displacement of many families. After three years of fighting and negotiations, the settler farmers won back their plots and now the company wants to make them pay costs for land developments made after takeover.

Communal farmers in Chipinge South, Manicaland have complained bitterly over this, expressing concern over the losses they experienced during the time they were displaced. In an interview with the Crisis Report, Platform for Youth Development (PYD) Director, Claris Madhuku who has been instrumental in assisting the communal farmers to  resolve this land dispute with Macdom Investments confirmed the incident citing that any developments made on communal farmers' plots are to service Macdom sugar plantations which stands close to the plots and this has had serious implications on the communal farmers' livelihoods. He went on to say, Macdom Investments had threatened that if the farmers failed to pay up, the company would   continue using the land for the next three seasons to allow it to recover its development costs. Mr Madhuku however highlighted that Professor Arthur Mutambara, who is leading an eight-member Cabinet Committee on the Chisumbanje Ethanol had committed that on the 4th of September 2012, he would present to the Cabinet concerns that the Chisumbanje communal farmers have raised.

The ethanol project is a partnership between Billy Rautenbach's Green Fuels, Rating and Macdom Investments in  a 20-year Build-Operate-and-Transfer (BOT) arrangement signed in 2009. Rautenbach is a business man with strong links in Zanu PF. In the 1990's he was wanted in South Africa where he faced charges of alleged fraud, corruption and other crimes including his connections with a South African company named Wheels of Africa Group. The ethanol project was set to transform the country's energy and agriculture sectors with an estimated produce between 2,5 million and 2,8 million litres of ethanol daily.

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