Green fuel has not paid its workers’ salaries since October 2014 it has been established despite being given a near monopoly by government to produce and sell fuel for the local market raising questions over the viability of this ethanol project and its sustainability.
The scandal came to light after frustrated workers embarked on a strike which started from Friday last week by workers who were demanding their outstanding arrears in their salaries.
Scenes reared ugly at the site as striking workers blocked sugar cane trucks to get in the mill and another group of workers blocked the workshop main gate demanding to see the management for their issues to be addressed.
The crowd only dispersed when the riot police moved in to calm the situation at the company and the management addressed the workers promising to pay salaries starting 2nd of May 2015.
Green Fuels Estate Manager Jeremy Doink, addressing the workers said they expected the money for the workers from 1 to 8 May 2014 but did not state the exact date as to when the money will be available.
Up to now there is very low turnout of workers to the site and they only pledged to go back to work when they are fully paid their outstanding salary arrears.
Green Fuels is a joint venture between Billy Rautenbach’s Ratings Investments and state-owned Arda at the latter’s estates in Chisumbanje, Manicaland.
The joint venture claims an investment of US$600 million though this figure has been questioned. Further, it is not majority owned by locals as per empowerment laws, and there have been indications that Arda is not benefiting as much from the deal as it has publicly claimed.
On a related incident, resettled farmers in Chisumbanje Resettlement blocked haulage trucks demanding their payments from 2013 to now.
The farmers were later addressed by the management of Green fuels saying the company will pay farmers on the 5th of May 2014.
Riot police intervened to calm the situation to allow trucks of sugar cane to proceed to the mill.
The money which the farmers are owed is for their sugarcane which they sell to the Green Fuel Company for use in the production of ethanol.
Green Fuel pays $4 per tonne of sugar cane which farmers just accepted although it is too low because it was a local project.
In total green fuels will disburse around $40000 for the 116 farmers they have on the contract.
Sugar cane farmers promised not to go back to their plots if Green Fuels continue not to honour their agreements.
The ethanol project is in a crisis as workers continue on their strike while on the other hand angry farmers are also blocking trucks demanding their outstanding payment.
By Misheck Shambare