PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured) will on Saturday officially launch the estimated US$40 million Kilimanjaro sugarcane project in Chiredzi in line with Tongaat Hulett’s endeavour to empower rural communities.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba confirmed the development yesterday.“Yes, I can confirm that the President will be in Chiredzi on Saturday this weekend to launch the Kilimanjaro project, but I cannot give further details as that will be tantamount to preempting the President’s speech before the event,” he said.

According to Tongaat’s corporate affairs department, the project is supported by the Zimbabwean government and a consortium of banks which include CABS, ZB Bank, IDBZ and CBZ.
The launch comes after the development of 3 362 hectares of land for sugarcane at Hippo Valley and Triangle Estates, a move that is expected to impact on the lives of disadvantaged indigenous communities

“A further 638 hectares will also be developed once appropriate land has been identified to bring the total project area to 4 000 hectares of sugarcane.

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“The project will create approximately 2 000 direct new jobs and significant economic empowerment opportunities are being realised both up and downstream, particularly for contractors of land preparation machinery, suppliers of key agricultural inputs, transport, housing and other services,” the sugar producer said in a statement.

However, community members fear that only Zanu PF bigwigs will benefit from the project.Sources close to the development revealed that farmers who grabbed Tongaat’s land during the chaotic fast-track land resettlement programme were likely to be the first beneficiaries.

Cane farmers in Mkwasine were said to be losing over 700 hectares of land annually due to alkalinity and salinity because of poor farming methods which include irrigation without proper drainage systems.

Tongaat is the biggest private employer in the country so far with more than 17 000 employees. Early this year, its director for enterprises and community development, Thomas Dheka dared locals to take over the running of its properties while it concentrates on its core business of sugarcane