Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter
Government is prioritising power generation because it is a key economic enabler for industrial growth, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa has said. Minister Chinamasa made the remarks while responding to questions from senators during a questions without notice session in the Upper House.
MPs raised concern over power cuts, saying they impacted negatively on industrial growth. Minister Chinamasa said Government was putting mechanisms in place to ensure that the country produced adequate electricity. “The issue of power generation cannot be achieved overnight,” he said. “It requires heavy investment and we are already seized with that matter. We regard power generation as our number one priority in order to have a good basis for economic recovery.
“What has exacerbated the situation right now has been the drought. In the past, this drought was affecting just Zimbabwe, but now it has affected not only Zimbabwe, but Zambia and Angola. The water levels at Kariba Dam are declining, all this because the rains did not come as we expected in the Angola/DRC border where the water for the Zambezi River originates.
“That is the explanation. We are not to blame as Government. It’s an act of God that there are droughts. But clearly, as Government, we have taken measures to address that problem in the long term because most power generation projects require heavy investment.”
Minister Chinamasa said some of the long-term projects that Government was implementing included the expansion of Kariba South that would add about 300MW to the national grid by 2018, while financial closure for the Hwange Thermal Power station to add about 600MW was at an advanced stage.
In the short term, Government encouraged construction of small hydro power stations to alleviate some of the power constraints. Meanwhile, Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo said improving the country’s road networks was his ministry’s top priority.
“We want to make sure that our road infrastructure is up to standard, which is why we want to dualise Beitbridge-Masvingo-Harare-Chirundu and then Beitbridge-West Nicholson-Victoria Falls roads,” he said. “We are also working on mechanisms to ensure that all the roads across the country, including gravel roads are well-serviced. Zinara has been disbursing money to Rural District Councils, so before the end of the year, you should be seeing improvements on the roads.”
Dr Gumbo said if local authorities diverted Zinara funds to other operational costs, they would not receive additional funds from the roads authority. He said Government did not have any policy in place to exempt the physically-handicapped from paying toll fees, but was willing to consider the request.