Rautenbach gets big farm

2010-01-14 00:00

OHANNESBURG — While the campaign to drive white farmers from their farms is being strengthened, the Zimbabwean government is giving 100 000 hectares of land to the controversial South African businessman Billy Rautenbach for the production of biofuel.

“It’s an absolute scandal, while we’re driven off our farms like dogs — farms which produce food for Zimbabwe,” Charles Taffs, deputy chair of the Zimbabwean Farmers’ Association, told Beeld yesterday.

The Nuanetsi estate in the Masvingo province belongs to the Joshua Nkomo trust, and is not one of the farms that have been taken from white farmers since 2002.

“It’s a matter of principle, and not because Rautenbach is white or about white farmers. He’s big buddies with Mugabe’s Zanu-PF. It’s all about money. Besides the loss of land for urgently needed agricultural production, over 10 000 people will be driven off the estate,” said Taffs.

Rautenbach will apparently invest over $1 billion in the project through his company, Zimbabwe Bio-Energy. President Robert Mugabe and Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa allegedly own shares in Rautenbach’s company.

A South African court has recently acquitted him of a string of criminal charges, in return for his testimony in the trial of former police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

The decision to make the land available to Rautenbach, to grow sugar cane to process into bio-fuel, has the support of Zimbabwe’s one deputy president, John Nkomo, who’s also one of the trustees.

However, it doesn’t carry the approval of all Zanu-PF supporters in Masvingo. The transfer of highly fertile land is being opposed by the provincial leadership of Zanu-PF.

“We have to ask ourselves: where is black empowerment if we’re going to allow one white man to take over such a large piece of land?” said Lovemore Matuke, provincial chair of Zanu-PF, according to the Zimbabwe Times.

He is supported by the governor of Masvingo, Titus Maluleke.

According to the government mouthpiece, the Herald, Nkomo said in reaction to the criticism that those who are opposed to Rautenbach’s role are “witches who oppose the development of Masvingo. Billy [Rautenbach] is our friend and those who want to drive him off the farm, are MDC supporters.”

The MDC is also opposed to the Rautenbach project.

A spokesman for the MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said such a project “should only be considered after a comprehensive land audit has been completed in Zimbabwe”.

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