Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Government has approved a duty waiver on solar equipment and allowed mining firms to procure energy directly from the Southern African Power Pool.
Further, selected hotels in resort areas will soon start paying electricity bills in foreign currency, as part of a raft of measures to overcome energy problems bedevilling the country.
In the fuel sector, Government directed the urgent rollout of a remote tracking system by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) and warned that errant service stations involved in profiteering will have their licences revoked.
This was said by Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa as she read out decisions of the 25th Cabinet meeting in Harare yesterday.
She said following a briefing from Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi, Cabinet noted with concern prolonged load-shedding, caused by reduced power supplies mainly due to low water levels at Lake Kariba.
“To alleviate the situation on the power supply front, Cabinet resolved as follows: to endorse the arrangement whereby large hotels in the Victoria Falls resort town can pay their ZESA bills in foreign currency so as to boost capacity to import power supplies; that a large-scale programme be implemented to promote the importation, local production of solar equipment and the use of solar power as an alternative energy source.
“In this regard, special incentives shall be provided through duty waivers on imported solar equipment while it shall be mandatory for all new construction projects to be solar-powered,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
“Furthermore, Cabinet embraced the commitment by mining companies under the banner of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines to pay a cost recovery electricity tariff to ZESA, and to directly procure extra power supplies from the Southern African Power Pool as well as to mobilise a lump sum towards the settlement of the existing power imports debt arrears.
“This will, among other things, assist in unlocking further power imports; and that the implementation of the already existing coal-bed methane gas projects be speeded up in order to provide affordable gas for cooking and heating purposes, thereby reducing reliance on power from the national grid.”
On fuel, Minister Mutsvangwa said Cabinet noted with concern that some service stations were continuing to flout their licensing conditions by rejecting electronic payments, diverting fuel to the parallel market, dispensing the product to preferred customers and engaging in other mischievous activities.
“Cabinet accordingly directed as follows: the urgent roll-out of the Matsimba Technology, which will enable Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority to remotely monitor the movement of fuel from the depot to the service station, fuel stocks at service stations, fuel dispensing activities at service stations, and the vehicles involved. A Ministerial statement will soon be issued to spell out the modalities in that regard; and that ZERA inspectors should be firmly on the ground and should immediately withdraw operating licences of those service stations caught engaging in the above-indicated malpractices,” she said.
Minister Mutsvangwa said responsible Ministry was already ceased with work on a lasting solution to the country’s fuel supply challenges.
Speaking at the same event, Minister Chasi expressed disappointment at some “rotten eggs” among service stations.
“I do not believe the majority of players are miscreants but sadly we have a number of rotten eggs in the sector who believe they can access our foreign currency and sell it on the black market. Some of them are taking fuel and putting it in drums and selling it on the black market. There will soon be screams in some quarters, these are very serious issues they cause a great deal of inconveniences to the public. As Government, we put in place a system to ensure that fuel is available, when we issue people with licences they must operate in the national interest not to have petty, parochial interest of self-aggrandizement. I can only say to you wait, sooner rather than latter some people will go home, they will not get anywhere near a service station,” said Minister Chasi.
He said fuel importers should have in the contracts with their dealers, with clauses that ensure that they comply with the law to avoid having their brands soiled.
On energy, Minister Chasi he was studying a report that he got from technical experts that travelled to South Africa to engage Eskom following a US$10 million payment aimed at reducing Government indebtedness.
He cautioned that the payment did not automatically unlock electricity but there was need for continued discussions.