The Sunday News
Gabriel Masvora and Dumisani Nsingo, Sunday News Reporters
THE Ministry of Energy and Power Development has constituted a team that will be dispatched to South Africa to negotiate with the neighbouring country’s power generation company, Eskom to supply Zimbabwe with electricity.
Zimbabwe is experiencing power shortages that have seen Zesa introducing a load-shedding regime that has resulted in some suburbs across the country going for at least 10 hours without electricity due to reduced generation at its major power stations.
The situation has been worsened by reduction in the allocation of water for power generation to Zimbabwe Power Company by the Zambezi River Authority from 19 billion cubic metres to 16 billion due to low water levels in the dam.
To augment the shortage, Zesa has been trying to import electricity from regional power companies but has been facing challenges since it already owes the companies an excess of US$80 million. Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi yesterday told Sunday News that the team was supposed to have gone to South Africa last week but was held as the neighbouring country was fresh from constituting a new Government.
“There is a team that has been formed to engage both Eskom and South Africa Government. They were supposed to go there last week but as you know there were new ministerial appointments in South Africa so they had to wait. They will engage both Government and Eskom,” he said.
Minister Chasi said the team has been instructed to negotiate a payment plan and once agreed that would see Eskom resuming exports to Zimbabwe.
“At the moment I cannot name members of the team but they are technical people from Zesa and other related institutions who have a know-how of the issues, I will announce the next date once we have liaised with our South Africa counterpart,” he said.
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa last month announced Mr Gwede Mantashe as the new Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy replacing Minister Jeff Hadebe. Minister Chasi said at the moment focus was on Eskom and nothing was being pursued on other regional power generators.
The latest development comes days after Minister Chasi fired the Zesa board that was led by former Cottco managing director Mr Collins Chihuru for failing to deal with the power situation. Zesa has complained that its efforts to engage regional power suppliers were being hampered by debts the company owes for previous supplies.
In an interview, Zesa public relations manager Mr Fullard Gwasira said efforts by the country to increase its electricity imports were being thwarted by delays in payment. The company owes Eskom of South Africa and Mozambique’s Hidroeléctrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB) about US$80 million. Zesa could only import 50 megawatts of power from Eskom, and 100 megawatts from Mozambique’s HCB.
“We have always been importing but our imports are largely from those with excess, which is Eskom of South Africa and HCB from Mozambique but unfortunately these imports have to be paid and we have not been paying per manner that has pleased our suppliers so we are now owing them about US$80 million between the two of them.
“So these suppliers are now not comfortable to give us power on credit because the debt keeps going up especially now that they are aware we have foreign currency challenges. We need to raise some money so that we start paying and make a payment plan just like we do to our customers whereby we make them come up with a payment plan to clear their debts . . . ,” said Mr Gwasira.
He said the Government through the Ministry of Energy and Power was putting in place a number of interventions to ease the prevailing electricity load shedding.
“There are measures that Government is putting through our ministry to ensure that load-shedding is at least bearable and these interventions will start bearing fruits especially if we get funding to import,” said Mr Gwasira.
The country is producing about 1 100MW a day against a demand of 1 500MW which has to be complemented by imports.