News24

Rautenbach gets Zim farm

2010-01-14 08:41

Johannesburg - While the campaign to drive white farmers from their farms intensifies, the Zimbabwean government is giving 100 000ha of land to controversial South African businessman Billy Rautenbach.

The land will be used to grow sugar cane which will be converted into bio-fuel.

"It's an absolute disgrace, when we're being driven off our farms like dogs - farms which produce food for Zimbabwe," Charles Taffs, deputy chair of the Zimbabwean Farmers' Association told Beeld on Wednesday.

The Nuanetsi estate in the Masvingo province belongs to the Josua Nkomo trust and is not one of the farms which have been seized from white farmers since 2002.

'All about money'

"It's a matter of principle, and not because Rautenbach is white or about white farmers. He has close ties 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 $1bn in the project through his company, Zimbabwe Bio-Energy. President Robert Mugabe and Emmerson Mnangagwa, minister of defence, 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 has the support of deputy president, John Nkomo, who's also one of the trustees.

Fertile soil


However, it doesn't carry the approval of all Zanu-PF supporters in Masvingo. The transfer of highly fertile soil 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's 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 opposed to the Rautenbach project as well.

A spokesperson for the MDC, Nelson Chamisa, on Wednesday said such a project "should only be considered after a comprehensive land audit has been completed in Zimbabwe".