Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
ENERGY and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi has said Zimbabwe is paying nearly US$1 million towards clearing its debt to South Africa’s State power utility, Eskom, and expects improved power supply by April.
Minister Chasi told The Herald Finance and Business that Zimbabwe was consistently meeting its obligations, which he said was the honourable thing to do as per the agreement with the South African power producer.
Zimbabwe’s state power utility, ZESA, said last month it was in talks with the African Export–Import Bank for a loan to clear US$70 million of arrears to power producers in neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique.
Electricity, together with improved rainy season, are two of key factors on which Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube, has premised his projection for a 3 percent growth this year after a forecast 6,5 contraction in 2019.
This comes as the power supply situation across the country has improved slightly, resulting in lesser loading shedding hours, but remains far from being consistently available or enough to meet present demand.
Zimbabwe requires 1 800 megawatts (MW) at peak periods of demand, but is currently able to generate way under 1 000MW due to constrained production capacity at two of the country’s largest power plants.
Zesa owes Eskom for previous power supplies and is also getting about 50 megawatts (MW) on a firm basis and up to 400WM on a non-binding arrangement when need be and if Eskom has power to spur.
Zimbabwe is also getting 50MW on a firm basis from Electricidade de Mocambique and Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (EDM), according to the energy minister.
“We are paying US$900 000 (monthly) and we have been able to meet our end of the agreement, which is an honourable thing to do as per our agreement,” he said.
Eskom once threatened to cut Zimbabwe off its power supply grid over Harare’s failure to service its debt, not least making timely payments.
While Minister Chasi said he did not have figures on how much Zimbabwe still owes Eskom, but at the height of its debt obligations to the power supplier, the country owed regional utility as much as US$80 million.
Zimbabwe’s power situation, while the country was already in a deficit due to limited generation capacity and old plant age, was worsened by the drought that struck the region, leaving the Zambezi River and Kariba Dam hydro plant catchment areas very thirsty.
As such, the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), which administers the affairs of the Zambezi River and Kariba Dam, now rations water from the reservoir between riparian states Zimbabwe and Zambezi to avoid depleting the lake. This sees the plant generate a maximum 200MW.
Kariba South, a 1 050MW rated power station, is Zimbabwe’s largest electricity plant, while Hwange Power Station, the second largest plant with design capacity of 920MW can only churn out around 450MW due to old age state of the plant, which lends it to frequent break downs.
Minister Chasi said Government was working on addressing short-term and long-term constraints to power supply in the country, going further to say while many have adopted solar as an alternative, attitudes on conserving power needed to change drastically.
He, however, said the power situation was one thing the Government strongly believed it could and would always find a lasting solution to.