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Police Arrest Chisumbanje Villagers in Rautenbach Land Row

Some villagers from Chisumbanje, Manicaland Province, are in police custody after they attempted to re-claim land that they say was forcibly taken by the multi-million dollar Chisumbanje Ethanol Plant.

The arrests occurred despite a cabinet taskforce ruling that the villagers should be allowed to work on the disputed land pending a final resolution of the ongoing dispute.

Controversial businessman Billy Rautenbach owns Macdon Investments, the company that runs the plant.

Scores of displaced villagers, mostly cotton and maize farmers, have been involved in a bitter land dispute with the controversial multimillionaire, who is said to have close ties to Zanu PF. The tensions increased since the beginning of the rainy season last month, when farmers are traditionally in their fields.

Rautenbach is accused of invading their land illegally after an initial agreement allowed him to use 5,100 hectares of nearby land.

The villagers are being detained at Chisumbanje Police Station, facing charges of invading private property.

Meke Makuyana, the MDC-T legislator for Chipinge South, told VOA’s Studio 7 that eight villagers are currently in police custody and more arrests are expected.
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Studio 7 phoned Macdom spokesperson Lillian Muungane, who did not answer her mobile phone.

MDC-T Manicaland Province spokesman Pishai Muchauraya said the villagers were arrested despite a special cabinet taskforce, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, revolved last month that villagers should be allowed to till the land pending a final resolution of the dispute.
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