via Going to waste . . . | The Herald December 12, 2013 by Fortious Nhambura
The place is deserted. There is no movement in the complex save for a security guard manning the entrance. There is no smoke from the chimneys, no noise from the machines or workmen and women traversing the yard of the Transload Biodiesel Plant complex in Mt Hampden.
After sometime a lone figure appears from one of the guardrooms along the perimeter fence visibly in no hurry to attend to us.
“Where are you from? The place has been closed for nearly a year now. There is no production here and people are not allowed here.
“Please do not take pictures. This is Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe property and you cannot take photographs,” said the guard manning the gates of the multimillion0-dollar complex that was constructed at the height of illegal sanctions-induced fuel shortages in 2007.
The place is now a pale shadow of the complex that was commissioned by President Mugabe a few years ago. It has clearly turned into a white elephant.
Located 15 kilometres northwest of Harare, the imposing plant has become a giant ghost in the area.
It is a clear sign of what can happen to an investment if there is lack of fore-planning and when politics override the will for development.
The plant is one of many multimillion-dollar structures that were erected but have been abandoned and turned to white elephants over the years.
Among other massive investment projects that have turned into white elephants in Harare and Chitungwiza are the Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex, the Magamba Hockey Stadium (all constructed when Zimbabwe hosted the 1995 All-Africa Games), and the Harare Centenary Bridge in the CBD and Machipisa bus terminus and a footbridge that were constructed as part of Harare centenary celebrations during the City of Harare’s Executive Mayor Solomon Tavengwa era.
The Transload Biodiesel plant, a joint venture between the RBZ and South Korean firm Yuan Woo Investments, was officially commissioned by President Mugabe on November 16, 2007.
It is one of the largest biodiesel plants in the world with a capacity to produce 100 million litres of biodiesel annually when operating at peak but that has never been realised.
“It is disheartening to see such a massive investment going to waste. The project was supposed to shine as it came as one of the sanctions-busting measures by our Government.
“It was a welcome development for a country that was facing shortage of fuel due caused by the illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West.
“Government should not let such projects rot but come up with a way of resuscitating them for the good of the country,” said Mr Fredrick Manyangarerwa, a social and economic analyst.
Unfortunately the multimillion dollar investment has not pumped any oil, not to 50 percent capacity, not 25 percent or even 10 percent of the installed capacity.
Reason: the country failed to provide enough feedstock from cotton seed, soya beans, jatropha and sunflower seed.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union vice president Mr Berean Mukwende said there was need for policy makers to prioritise and focus energies and resources on ensuring that such infrastructure like the Mt Hampden biodiesel plant start production.
“There is so much value that is locked in these infrastructures that should be used for the benefit of the people. Government should not just look at the immediate financial benefits but other factors like social and political impact of focusing on importing and not production.
“If the plant is resuscitated it will mean jobs for the local people and markets for farmers. That is what we should consider before making decisions,” he said.
Said a Harare-based political analyst who declined to be named: “That is a reflection of the decline we have witnessed in agriculture. The sector was supposed to give enough stock for pressing but it has not been pumping and that is reflected by the silence at the biodiesel plant.
“It shows that politics should never be used to stall development. The MDC fought against these projects and look what we have now, a multimillion dollar investment that is not in use.”
With the plant operating at capacity the country was supposed to serve between US$50 million and US$70 million.
Despite efforts by the national biodiesel feedstock production taskforce to promote the growing of jatropha and other oil seeds, lack of funding saw many projects that had been instituted to grow feedstock for the plant folding.