OVER 500 hectares of sugar cane worth US$5 million belonging to Green Fuel in Chisumbanje went up in smoke on Tuesday in a suspected case of arson. Police were, however, not available for comment.
The incident comes barely three days after Zambian Energy and Water Development Deputy Minister Charles Zulu visited the Chisumbanje ethanol plant and indicated his country’s desire to import ethanol from Green Fuel over the next three years.
It also occurred at a time when MDC-T has been frustrating the ethanol project when its policy documents expose the party’s plans to introduce higher mandatory fuel blending should it win the harmonized elections.
Green Fuel is a joint venture between Macdom and Rating Investments with Government through Arda.
The project supports 5 000 jobs and was set to transform the Chipinge community.
Arda chairman Basil Nyabadza last night confirmed the destruction of the sugar cane.
“About 500 hectares of sugar cane worth US$5 million has been destroyed in Chisumbanje. Ten people have been arrested so far and I understand that police investigations are still under way,” Nyabadza said.
Sources close to developments described the fire as an act of sabotage to ground Green Fuel’s operations amid fears in certain quarters that the success of the project would raise the Zanu-PF trajectory in Manicaland.
“The project, as you know, has been sabotaged locally and this development is a way of killing this new lifeline that has been extended by the Zambians.
“People who did this are acting on instructions from certain individuals in Harare,” said the source.
In the public arena, MDC-T argued through its deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma, who is also the Energy and Power Development Minister, that blended fuel should not be foisted on consumers.
However, an MDC-T classified policy document titled “MDC Policy Handbook for 2013” exposed the party’s shenanigans to gain political mileage using the ethanol project.
The policy document clearly outlined that an MDC government it would introduce mandatory blending.
“An MDC government will stimulate and sustain the development and expansion of biofuels to meet the country’s liquid fuel needs.
“It will also make the blending of ethanol compulsory,” reads part of the document.
The party admitted that introduction of mandatory fuel blending would ease the country ballooning import bill.
In this regard, MDC-T proposed introduction of mandatory blending within the region of 15 to 20 percent.
This is a much higher percentage compared to the paltry five percent signed by Minister Mangoma early this year.
Mangoma said the five percent would be operationalized after the consummation of joint negotiations currently underway between Government and Green Fuel.
“In order to address the challenges of foreign currency shortages for importing petroleum products the country will introduce 15 to 20 percent ethanol blending for petrol,” reads the document.
The Zambian Government had somehow wrecked the plan after announcing its plans to import all the ethanol from Green Fuel.
Zambian Energy and Water Development Deputy Minister Charles Zulu told the Zambian Times recently that they would soon sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Green Fuel.
He said ethanol from Green Fuel was cheaper and it would help to reduce fuel prices in Zambia.
“We are happy that as Government we have found a source of energy which in the short-term will assist us as a country to bring down the prices of fuel in Zambia,” he said.
Zulu said his Government had realized that ethanol was environmentally clean, and it was expected that fuel prices in Zambia would go down once the country switched to that source of energy.
He said motor vehicles would be able to last long and that there would be job creation.
Zulu said it was possible for Zambia to produce ethanol like what Zimbabwe was doing at the moment.
“As you may be aware fuel in Zimbabwe is cheaper than in Zambia as the country is using ethanol. Malawi is equally cheaper as they use ethanol,” he said.
On whether Green Fuel had the capacity to supply Zimbabwe’s ethanol needs and still supply Zambia, a Green Fuel spokesperson Lilian Muungani said: “We understand Zambia is targeting a mandatory blend ratio of 20 percent and Green Fuel has the capacity to meet their ethanol requirements.
“When the locally gazetted percent mandatory blending policy is implemented we will still be able to supply both the domestic and regional markets.”
Zimbabwe, which is a net importer of fuel, had failed to take advantage of the multi-million dollar ethanol project to satiate its demands.
Vice President Joice Mujuru recently said some policy makers should not force President Mugabe to decree the issue.
She said politicians should not seek to drum up support using the people’s suffering in and around Chipinge.