Chingwizi villagers lose out

MWENEZI - After several years of hustling in the fields with little returns due to rolling droughts ravaging the arid Mwenezi district, news that a massive ethanol project was to be set up in the area had brought joy for Tsakilani Chauke, an unemployed youth.

He is one of the few villagers who have not illegally crossed the border into neighbouring South Africa to look for “greener pastures”.

Most of his age mates have left.

Though he has no professional qualifications, he would benefit as a menial labourer as the ethanol producing company indicated its plans to prioritise youths from the area when employment opportunities arise.

The ethanol plant, proposed in the Nuanetsi range’s Chingwizi area, would create 5 000 jobs directly and would need sugarcane out-growers after tapping water from the soon to be completed Tokwe Mukosi Dam which was poised to irrigate 25 000 hectares of cane.

But delays in the project owing to political bickering have left all his hopes dashed.

“I could as well have joined the great trek down-south like what most young men from here do,” said Lloyd Hlekani from Mwenezi.

“But when such a project arises in an underdeveloped area like this, we expect to benefit through getting employment. But now there are doubts over the project because of politics.

“Our hopes for a better life have been dampened, so we might end up joining the great trek to South Africa for greener pastures.”

Factional political wrangling in the province has been blamed for hampering development after it emerged that some local politicians have blocked the gigantic ethanol project.

Masvingo provincial minister, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, is reportedly refusing to commission the establishment of the ethanol plant.

“We have been running around since last year to get a go ahead from the local leadership but we are hitting a brick wall,” said an insider from ZBE who declined to be named.

“They are just blocking us from kick starting  because of some political reasons although  we have since passed various tender procedures to do the investment.

“The major challenge lies in the provincial minister’s office.”

ZBE says it is ready to kick start the project at Nuanetsi ranch after it was given vast tracks of land by Development Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ), owners of the Nuanetsi ranch.

After clearing thousands of hectares for the project, the land was reportedly grabbed by Bhasikiti under unclear circumstances and allocated for Tokwe Mukosi flood victims at Chingwizi.

But it is the common villagers in Mwenezi, Chivi, Masvingo and Chiredzi districts, who are affected by the political bickering.

Besides losing out on employment opportunities, the project was set to lift the face of Mwenezi by transforming it into an urban settlement and also benefit from development of the local infrastructure.

“We are also not happy by this, because the projects were going to improve our road networks, schools for our children and health institutions including hospitals and clinics,” said Monica Chauke.

Although ZBE spokesperson, Lillian Muungani declined to comment, insiders in the company claim that Rutenga Growth Point and Mwenezi district would grow threefold than the city of Masvingo if the project is to realise its full potential.

“It’s quite dangerous when you see politicians overlooking the issue of development and betterment of the people’s lives,” said the insider from ZBE.

“For instance, the project would help the establishment of yet another urban city in the province as Rutenga could grow three times more than Masvingo city.”

DTZ resident director, Charles Madonko, confirmed that the project was being blocked and accused Bhasikiti of being a “wolf in sheep’s skin.”

“The ranch  was earmarked for projects including an ethanol plant but we have been failing to kick start because we don’t have money but now we have the investor but we still can’t because the political leadership is in our way,” said Madonko.

DTZ has appealed to President Robert Mugabe to intervene and save the project that was founded by the late vice president Joshua Nkomo in 1989.

Madonko said Nkomo died “with a sore heart” before his dream of establishing an ethanol plant realised fruits.

“He urged Mugabe to intervene to make sure the late vice president’s goals were realised.

Bhasikiti has refused to comment, accusing the Daily News on Sunday of attempting to destroy his political career.

“I am not going to comment to your paper,” he said. “You are being paid to destroy me by some people. So write what you want and lie to people like what you did in your lead story early last week.”

Insiders said Bhasikiti and the provincial leadership were not happy with the way ZBE, who also owns the Chisumbanje plant in Manicaland, acquired the tender for the project.
Apart from the development of the province, the project will also benefit the country’s energy sector.

The ethanol plant could also help ease the country’s burden of importing fuels and generating electricity as it is the major objectives of its production lines.

While 5 000 direct jobs were supposed to be created and ease unemployment problems in the country, sub contractual agreements between the project owners and other companies was also set to create close to 10 000 indirect jobs for the locals and the country at large.

The country’s largest labour body, ZCTU, lambasted Zanu PF for standing in the way of job creation in the country.

“You see, these are the people who promised two million jobs for the country in five years in their campaign manifesto but are failing even to work together and commission such a project that could uplift the lives of thousands of young people in the country who are wallowing in poverty due to unemployment,” said Ian Makoshori, ZCTU young workers council chairman.

“The party  misled the nation and do not have the interests of the people at heart, particularly the young people who need jobs.”

According to ZCTU, unemployment currently stands at 86 percent and the continued efforts by Zanu PF to frustrate potential investors is impacting negatively on the economy and people’s lives.

Comments (2)

Bhasikiti with all due respect is not for the people at all. Look how people in Mwenezi are being treated and you continue watching yet you are an MP for the area. Sign papers and let us work for our district - one of the poorest in the country. VaChuma musadaro

neshuro - 29 June 2014

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