The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Online News Editor
THE impasse over the ownership of the Bulawayo Power Station continues unabated after Bulawayo City councillors recently directed Town Clerk, Mr Christopher Dube not to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to pave way for negotiations with the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC).
The two institutions have been engaged in legal battles over the ownership of the power station with the local authority claiming that the power utility was legally its tenant. BCC has vowed that it will only be able to give ZPC the title deeds after the power utility pays them royalties of US$60 million.
Last year, it emerged that the power utility tried to push the local authority into transferring the power station ownership before any negotiations through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, which the local authority rejected, noting that they would not have any leverage when conducting the negotiations once they hand over the site.
According to a copy of the proposed MoU, gleaned by this publication, its purpose is to irrevocably undertake to conclude the negotiations on the transfer of ownership of the land, power generation and associated infrastructure in a manner that will not prejudice or disrupt the implementation of the rehabilitation project.
“The parties hereby record their understanding that Zesa is ready, willing, and, irrevocably committed to negotiating compensation to BCC in a manner, amount, and at times to be determined through negotiation between the parties. Within 60 days from signature of this MoU, BCC shall submit a comprehensive compensation proposal to Zesa, which shall include, where the form of compensation is sounding in money, the sum total of the compensation amount, a breakdown of the compensation account, method of settlement, tenure of compensation and any other administrative information as may be ancillary or related,” reads the draft MoU.
It is further stated that the negotiations are expected to take six months. However, in deliberating the matter, councillors instructed Mr Dube not to sign the MoU, instead there will now be public consultations to get the opinion of residents, a move that will further delay the conclusion of the matter. The public consultations began yesterday, running concurrently with the public review of the billing system.
“Discussion ensued and Councillor Skhululekile Moyo proposed that the council first hold a consultation meeting with residents before making any decisions. Clr Tawanda. Ruzive highlighted that if the Act authorised Zesa to take over the power station there would not be any need for a Memorandum of Understanding. He further suggested that alternatively, the council could allocate land for Zesa to develop a power station. The Deputy Mayor (Clr Mlandu Ncube) emphasised that the power station belonged to the residents. It was therefore prudent to engage them in the decision-making process. He further suggested that council be in partnership with Zesa and acquire shares from the power station instead of simply handing over the whole power station to Zesa,” reads a council report.
In response, Mr Dube advised councillors that authority was being sought to sign the MoU to negotiate the terms and compensation of the transfer of the power station.
“He further explained that councillors would be engaged once negotiations reached the transfer stage. He, therefore, proposed that this item be deferred pending consultation with other councillors so that when the report was submitted to council, councillors would better understand the context of the proposed Memorandum of Understanding,” reads the report.
The ownership of the power station has taken numerous twists over the years, at one point the ZPC also emerged with their own set of title deeds, which saw them even making moves to demolish two of the cooling powers at the power station arguing that they had outlived their lifespan, a move that was met with opposition from residents who noted that the towers were part of the city’s notable landmarks.
It was not clear how the ZPC got to have the title deeds as the power station was constructed and fell under the jurisdiction of the local authority until 1987 when Zesa was given the sole mandate of power generation in the country, taking over from local authorities.
ZPC was then required to pay royalties to the local authority, a matter which has also been subject to controversy after the power utility reneged in paying the royalties to the council. According to the Zesa Holding’s website the Bulawayo Power Station is connected to the national grid through the 11 kilo-volt and 33 kilo-volt systems.