Billy Rautenbach

Wikipedia:Link rot Harare South Africa

Billy Rautenbach
Born (1959-09-23) 23 September 1959 (age 61)
Known for"Wheels of Africa trucking"

Billy Rautenbach, also known as Muller Conrad Rautenbach (born 23 September 1959), is a Zimbabwean businessman.

Business ventures

He first started expanding his family business, Wheels of Africa, Rautenbach turned his focus of car design and it greatly increased the market share of Hyundai in South Africa. Circa 2004, tax evasion charges were soon leveled against him by the South African authorities resulting in asset forfeiture worth 50 million rands, which forced him to leave South Africa. The National Prosecuting Authority failed to secure a conviction and withdrew the charges two years later. Although his personal assets were returned, the legal battles against tax evasion charges cost him the Hyundai business and brought significant negative publicity.

In 2006, Central African Mining & Exploration Company plc (CAMEC), a company Rautenbach became involved with, listed on the London Stock Exchange, acquired various mining operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).[1]

With the assistance of his father's trucking business, contacts in transporting minerals, and using innovative mining techniques, he successfully mined state-owned companies and attracted the attention of the government. He developed a different technique and out-mined the state company in a very short period of time: "We did it very selectively. We slowed down the process and picked it out in very high grade and with very little investment". Billy's unorthodox approach was successful, and showed the massive inefficiency of the state-run enterprises. In 1998, Laurent Kabila offered him a chance to lead state-owned Gecamines. Despite initial reluctance, he finally accepted, and in doing so, successfully turned around the fortunes of the company by cutting costs and improving efficiencies. However, the rebel-infested country began to create trouble for the Congolese government who, in a search of funds, issued allegations of misappropriation of corporate assets. Rautenbach has denied any allegations of financing the DRC war, logically stating that he was in business in the Congo long before the war broke out: "I started mining in the Congo about a year before the war started. So all of a sudden, the war is there because of me. It's unbelievable."[2] "We were very active there in getting the production going, in turning around things. We were possibly affecting people's commercial interests ... I set up a little mine there, and out-produced the major cobalt producers in the world in one year. They spend billions of dollars putting up a plant and I come there as a farmer – me and my dad – and we got the stuff out of the ground". However, stories continued circulating: allegations that he was Robert Mugabe's right-hand man, that he had bribed Kabila into securing his mining concessions, and that his mines were financing Zimbabwe's soldiers in the DRC. To date, there have not been any substantiation on claims of Rautenbach's links to Mugabe and the European Union struck him off the targeted sanctions list in February 2012.[3]

Sustainable development activities

In June 2018, Rautenbach, owner of Zimbabwe Bio Energy (ZBE), became embroiled in a legal battle with joint venture stakeholders at Nuanetsi Ranch Limited, who are accusing Rautenbach of "sabotage, looting and making unilateral decisions without the consent of Nuanetsi Ranch Board".[4] Rautenbach has significant game-ranching investments in Mwenezi, but his company, ZBE, currently faces numerous allegations relating to the "abuse of workers, arbitrary dismissals and non-payment of salaries".[4] The 308,000 hectare cattle and wildlife management ranch is a trust property, established by former Vice President, Dr Joshua Nkomo. In a letter to Zanu PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo, Nuanetsi Ranch chairperson, Dr Liberty Mhlanga, condemns Rautenbach's alleged misconduct: "We have taken Billy to High Court to seek his urgent eviction because he is looting Nuanetsi Ranch's cattle and wildlife without consulting my Managing Director whom he should be working with on the Ranch [...] He has continued to loot and destroy the Ranch. I am not sure where his power is from", reads part of the letter, which is dated 4 April 2018.[4]

In favour of sustainable development, Rautenbach saw to it that CAMEC created employment for over 5,000 people at its Luita plant. At an average of five people per household, 25,000 people are currently being sustained as a result of this operation. The latter also saw the completion of an expatriate staff village of 3,000 people – fondly known as Billyville by employees and contractors – with over 200 houses, recreation facilities, staffing hostels, and a 2,000 m2 office complex. Moreover, millions of dollars were reinvested into the DRC to uplift the communities surrounding CAMEC's operations. These projects included renovations to a clinic and the provision of necessary medical equipment, and the construction of a crèche and primary school. Construction also included a technical college to educate 3,600 children in the skills needed at the processing plant such as mechanics, electronics and welding to help alleviate the skills shortages in the DRC. Further CSI initiatives included the reconstructing of local infrastructure i.e. the 80 km national road between Kolwezi and Likasi previously damaged by floods more than 15 years ago; power lines of 23 km from the town of Fungurume to Luita, and a state of the art water treatment system providing 40,000 litres of drinkable water per day was constructed in an area previously known for cholera. The company also commissioned and built two dams of 50,000 m3 and 1,5 million litres respectively.[5] CAMEC's mining and production operation at Luita also helped create business opportunities for local contractors such as brickmaking plants.

Subsequent activities in Zimbabwe – Green Fuel Investments

Rautenbach's greatest achievement to date has been in mobilizing investment towards bio-ethanol leading to the construction of the Green Fuel Chisumbanje ethanol plant modeled along the lines of Brazil's biofuel cane industry. The ambitious project is a build, operate and transfer partnership between government represented by the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda), Green Fuel Investments (headed by Rautenbach) and two other investment partners – Rating Investments and Macdom Investments. The 20-year pact was signed in February 2009. The project is the biggest so far in Africa.[6] Some sections of the media claim that the project was a land grab because of the huge tracts of land bought by the investors, however, repeated monitoring visits by officials from the Zimbabwean government, the World Bank and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization qualified the industrial development as necessary for the poverty stricken district. The ethanol project has subsequently set records for Zimbabwe as being the first African country with flexi-fuel vehicle technology using blends of up to 85% ethanol and reducing the country's fuel import bill, creating over 4,500 jobs and leading Zimbabwe to a greener economy.[7] By contributing to the production of ethanol based fuel, Green fuel has helped the country to save at least $2 million every month in fuel imports. However, the mandatory fuel blending imposed by the government on behalf of Green Fuel has been met with disdain and viewed as a symbol of Rautenbach's far reaching influence on the ZANU-PF led government.[8]

Creation of jobs

The project, possibly Africa's largest eco-project to date, has created more jobs in Zimbabwe than any other in the last 20 years.[9] Green Fuel is also supplying irrigation for the first time to peasant farmers working in dry areas around the sugar cane fields.[10] It is foreseen that the venture will continue to create employment for more than 8,000 people. Already, the venture is sponsoring nearly $2,000,000 every month in salaries alone for 120 full-time employees and hundreds of contract workers from villages dotted around the ARDA estates transforming the lives of people in Chisumbanje, including others at growth points such as Checheche and in towns as far afield as Chipinge and Chiredzi.[11] Zimbabwe does not have personnel experienced in ethanol plant construction work and through job training programmes, Green Fuel has created a set of skilled ethanol plant artisans marketable worldwide thereby empowering the local people through technological transfer. Moreover, the planned construction of the Kondo Dam for increased water volumes needed along the Save River will create more jobs for the rural populace. Further to this, a steel fabricating unit has been established in Harare with a staff of over 100 artisans involved in the manufacture of parts required for the ethanol project. 13 Local commuter bus companies in Chipinge have been contracted to ferry labor from the villages to the project site on a daily basis. More importantly, 30% of the artisans employed in the distillery and boiler sections of the ethanol plant are Zimbabweans previously based outside the country in South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique. Community leaders in Chisumbanje said they are fully behind the project as it will uplift their livelihoods, "We really support the project as we are the first beneficiary in the sense that development will be realised in our once marginalized area. We shall benefit economically, infrastructural and even socially", said one community leader.[12]

Community irrigation construction and rehabilitation

A priority within the ethanol investment project is to ensure the local ownership component. In an effort to counter the devastating impact of years of poverty-inducing drought, a socially responsible intervention was made to provide access to water for rural farmers for all-year round farming needs.[13] At Chisumbanje, a new 4000 hectare irrigation scheme is being developed for communal farming.[14] To date, 700 farmers recovering from drought have been allocated new irrigation plots with packages of input to kick-start their operations. It is projected that by mid-2013, 1,080 farmers will be active irrigators and at project completion this figure should peak to 8000 plot holders. A 'community irrigation schemes water engineering department' has been created at Middle Sabi and is operational seeing to the day-to-day needs of the schemes in terms of water conveyance.[15] The Save River and a functional irrigation system is now the lifeline of the area. As a result of the project, Checheche Growth Point has since applied for town status in anticipation of a boom in business as a state-of-the-art shopping mall and a residential area is in the offing.[16]

Refurbishment of social service institutions

Green Fuel has commenced rehabilitative works on key public service facilities which include schools, roads and health centres. Work has commenced in this direction with initial focus on educational facilities on both estates and the major health referral centre closest to Chisumbanje-St Peters Hospital at Checheche, with the construction of new structures to cater for the swelling service demand created by the volumes of staff on site.[17]

Commercial out grower programme

This programme targets individual farmers keen on growing sugarcane to supply the mill. The farmers are supplied with all the technical assistance in the form of land preparation for 10 hectares and inputs whose costs are deductible from their total sales after harvesting. To date, 650 hectares have been developed in the pilot programme and handed over to 241 farmers for a pioneer programme.

Effect on the Zimbabwean economy

Upon completion of the project, between 2,5 million and 2,8 million litres of ethanol will be produced daily. The production of such volumes of ethanol would be expected to end the country's importation of petrol as consumers convert to the use of the cheaper fuel. Excess ethanol-petrol export could be an important source for foreign currency.[18]

Environmental Protection

Ethanol is a clean burning fuel that reduces air pollution and decreases greenhouse gas emissions by over 60%. As talks of climate change gather momentum, Zimbabwe joins countries such as Brazil and China in discussing how to reduce carbon footprints through investment into ethanol.[19]


Rautenbach lives on his farm on the outskirts of Harare with his family, and is involved in natural land conservation. He and his son Conrad do rally racing in their spare time.[20]


  1. ^ Madelain Roscher. "Plea Bargain Agreement Between Npa And Billy Rautenbach's Company, S.a. Botswana Hauliers Finalised". PRworx. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  2. ^ Derek Watts (8 April 2001). "Crook or Crucified?". Carte Blanche. Archived from the original on 1 December 2013.
  3. ^ "EU lifts Zimbabwe sanctions". SABC News. 17 February 2012. Archived from the original on 12 May 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  4. ^ a b c "Rautenbach looting, destroying Nuanetsi Ranch". Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  5. ^ Chantal Riley (22 September 2009). "Billy Rautenbach Positive About Involvement in SA Business". PR newswire.
  6. ^ Constantine Chimakure (11 November 2010). "Ethanol project set to transform energy sector". The Standard.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Barnabas Thondlhana (1 March 2013). "Zimbabwe hopes for savings as it unveils ethanol-blending rules". Engineering News.
  8. ^ Ray Ndlovu (20 February 2013). "Zimbabwe to cut fuel imports as prices soar". Business Day Live.
  9. ^ "Locally-Produced Fuel at Zimbabwe's Pumps". Business Day Live. 10 November 2011.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ Barnabas Thondlhana (1 March 2013). "Zimbabwe hopes for savings as it unveils ethanol-blending rules". Engineering News.
  11. ^ "Sugar cane lights up Middle Sabi". Radio Voice of the People. 13 July 2011. Archived from the original on 22 July 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  12. ^ "Sugar cane project takes off at ARDA Chisumbanje". Zimbabwe News Online. 2 August 2009. Archived from the original on 12 May 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  13. ^ "Joint Ethanol Project Committee clarifies Chisumbanje project". Zimdiaspora. 28 January 2012.
  14. ^ "Ethanol rules outlined". Zimdiaspora. 8 December 2011.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "Joint Ethanol Project Committee clarifies Chisumbanje project". Zimdiaspora. 28 January 2012.
  16. ^ Constantine Chimakure (11 November 2012). "Ethanol project set to transform energy sector". Zimbabwe Independent.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ Stephen Ephraem (9 November 2012). "Chisumbanje women demand reopening of ethanol plant". Manica Post.
  18. ^ Constantine Chimakure (11 November 2012). "Ethanol project set to transform energy sector". Zimbabwe Independent.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ "Ethanol rules outlined". News Day. 8 December 2011.
  20. ^, 2006-06-27: Conrad Rautenbach Zimbabwe summary Archived 7 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine