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Mudzuri exposes Mangoma over ethanol project

By Clemence ManyukweFingaz

FORMER energy minister Ellias Mudzuri has exposed his successor, Elton Mangoma and Agriculture Mechanisation Minister, Joseph Made following their claims that the ethanol project in Chisumbanje had never passed through Cabinet.

Mudzuri, who lost his ministerial position in June 2010 following Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s mini Cabinet reshuffle, said he informed Cabinet and wrote reports to both the premier and President Robert Mugabe on the need to adopt ethanol as an alternative fuel as it had the potential to create jobs and reduce the country’s fuel import bill.

Since Mangoma took over at the Energy Ministry, he has appeared hostile to the Green Fuel project and has rejected mandatory blending of ethanol. During a speech in Parliament recently, Mangoma also rubbished claims that the use of ethanol was essential in combating the effects of climate change, adding that the matter was never brought before Cabinet.

But Mudzuri alleged this week that he personally raised the issue in Cabinet.

“I am an honest person. I don’t know why people lie. I brought the issue to Cabinet and I presented reports to the President and the Prime Minister. I gave the recommendation to adopt the project as a national project in order to create employment and save money by reducing imports,” said Mudzuri in an interview with The Financial Gazette.

He said he attended a Southern African Development Community (SADC) workshop on energy during his tenure in Mozambique that encouraged the region to move towards the harnessing of ethanol as an alternative source of fuel. After that workshop, Mudzuri said he headed straight to Brazil on recommendations from Made’s ministry to study that country’s ethanol projects for possible implementation in Zimbabwe. Mudzuri said Made was also supposed to have travelled to Brazil along with Agricultural Rural and Development Authority chairman, Basil Nyabadza, but failed to travel at the 11th minute.

Mudzuri said scientifically, there was nothing wrong with blending ethanol for use in vehicles, arguing those opposed to the use of ethanol were acting from a point of ignorance which called for people to be educated on biofuels.

“There is nothing wrong with the project, maybe the person (Billy Rautenbach) is the wrong person in the eyes of some people. But personally, I don’t look at people. I look at results and what is good for the people,” added Mudzuri.

“Green Fuel must export their product and exporting their product does not prejudice this country one bit. It also does not prejudice this world one bit because whether pollution has been done in Zimbabwe or is being stopped in Australia, it is the same thing as far as the universe is concerned.”

Mudzuri’s take on the Green Fuel issue is in sharp contrast with Mangoma’s stance on the matter in which he has maintained a hardliner stance, which forced President Mugabe to declare recently that administrative issues must not stop ethanol production.

A Zimbabwean Economics PHD student specialising in biofuels and the green economy at South Africa’s University of Tswane, Chipo Nyamwena–Mukonza, said the use of ethanol was in fact advantageous for the country, saying biofuels were the future considering the depletion of fossil fuels.

Nyamwena–Mukonza, disagrees with those who say political meddling could render the project inefficient and unviable for Zimbabwe.

“Biofuels have been advocated for as they are perceived to deal with the twin problems of climate change and energy crisis. Another compelling factor, especially for SADC countries is that about 14 countries are landlocked and they rely heavily on imported oil from the Middle East, hence for Zimbabwe if we produce biodiesel or bioethanol it is an important alternative,” said Nyamwena–Mukonza.

“It is important that all stakeholders work together to ensure that alternative fuels were fully compatible with existing technologies and infrastructure. What this means is that the Standards Association of Zimbabwe and other stakeholders must carefully adopt fuels standards to allow for higher blending ratios within the existing infrastructure and end use.”