Zimbabwe’s target to achieve electricity self-sufficiency by 2023, which is barely 5 months to commence remains hanging in the air as the power utility, Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority continues struggling to put its house in order.
Despite having one of the largest man-made dams in Africa, Kariba Dam and huge coal reserves, Zimbabwe continues to battle massive electricity blackouts which are putting the country’s production targets at stake.
The country expects a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 4.6% a downgrade from the initial 5.5%.
Zimbabwe’s energy sector is being crippled by a huge debt that ZESA is failing to pay to Mozambique estimated at US$ 10 million by April this year and a monthly obligation to Zambia. In 2021, the country made a titanic effort to cut down its debt to Mozambique by paying US$35 million from US$45 million according to official statistics. South Africa’s Eskom has been one of the key electricity imports destination to Zimbabwe. However, due to Zimbabwe’s failure to service its debt on time, the country has cast a blind eye to ZESA’s struggles.
Strains to import power from South Africa have been exacerbated by Eskom’s struggles to put its house in order, a situation that has seen South Africa embracing dark prolonged periods.
Recently, Minister Monica Mutsvangwa alluded that Zimbabwe is in talks with the Dubai unit of SkyPower, a renewable energy projects developer, to build 500MW of solar plants in the country. Data from SkyPower shows that it has built and acquired a pipeline of over 25GW worth of power projects in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
Minister Mutsvangwa said the proposed solar parks would be built in phases during a post-cabinet briefing without providing financial insights.
Zimbabwe needs an average power demand of nearly 2000 MW, but the power utility’s total power supply currently ranges between 1000 MW to 1200 MW leaving out a deficit of more than 400MW.
“The Framework Agreement will pave way for engagement between SkyPower Global and ZESA Holdings in order for the two entities to negotiate a Power Purchase Agreement as well as other ancillary agreements relevant to power generation,” Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa during a post-cabinet briefing last week.
As it is battling to deal with power blackouts, ZESA has turned on to load shedding of up to 12 hours per day affecting industry capacity utilisation.
The power crisis comes at a time the nation is forfeiting almost US$1.2 billion to corruption and gold smuggling.
ZESA’s main power harbour, Kariba Power Station has been battling to supply enough electricity due to reduced water levels exacerbated by the climate change effects and recurrent technical faults on the plant which the government is dismally failing to address.
On the other hand, Hwange Thermal Power Station is also struggling due to ageing power plants which the government also, is failing to replace.
Zimbabwe heavily relies on its only hydro-power plant, the Kariba South Power Station, which is the biggest power generation plant in the country with a total generation capacity of 1050MW while Hwange Power Station, the largest coal-fired power station has a capacity of 920MW. Other power comes from Harare, Bulawayo and Munyati power stations with installed capacities of 50MW, 90MB and 50MW in their respective orders.
Of the state-owned five power utilities, Kariba is the only which produces renewable energy with the other five producing non-renewable energy. To offset climate change effects, Zimbabwe is pushing for private investment into renewables to fill the power deficits. The government announced bids for 500MW of solar in 2020 but the country’s political hatred towards democracy, corruption and currency crisis has kept many investors away. Zimbabwe has issued permits for a combined capacity of close to 7000MW, but independent power producers are supplying only about 135MW to the grid.
In July last year, Zimbabwe announced talks with AF Power of Singapore under which the company would build 200MW over three years, starting with the first phase of 50MW in Umguza by 2022. However, the project is yet to take off.
In 2021, the government rolled out the National Development Strategy (NDS) Phase 1 (2021-2025) which targets to increase power supply from the current installed capacity of 2317 MW to 3467 MW by 2025 and to construct an additional 280 km of the electricity transmission and distribution network by 2025. However, such projects require huge funds which can only be attained through political and economic reforms.
Corruption has been a haunting factor in the ending of the electricity crisis in Zimbabwe. In 2014 ZESA contracted Intratrek Zimbabwe, owned by businessman Wicknell Chivayo, to implement a 100MW solar project worth $200m in Gwanda. However, nothing substantial was produced. The tenders for power projects that Chivhayo won are worth more than US$600m – most of which have not started such as US$73m for the refurbishment of the Harare Power Station, US$163m for the restoration of the Munyati Power Station and US$248m for the Gairezi Power project by ZPC.
Law enforcement has been on a ‘catch and release’ circus with fingered corrupt officials- with no genuine arrests and imprisonments occurring.
In 2019, Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira was fired after she was accused of criminal conduct during her time as Minister of Public Service resulting in the loss of US$95 million at the National Social Security Authority. Zimbabwe’s Health Minister, Obadiah Moyo, was discharged in June 2020 after allegations that he illegitimately granted a US$60 million contract to a sinister firm that sold the government COVID19 PPE at inflated prices in what is known as the ‘DRAX scandal.’
To end the power crisis, Zimbabwe needs to deal with corruption first and then look for good investors for the Hwange Power Station and Kariba Power Station.
Chinese people are not real investors but are shenanigans that are milking Africa’s resources while putting them in a big debt trap. Due to the lack of separation of powers, fighting corruption in Zimbabwe is just like moving mountains as both the legislative and the judiciary systems are captured. The executive arm of the government has immense influence within the courts of law making it difficult for the rule of law to apply.
That is also making it difficult for Zimbabwe to get a credit bailout to service its debts and unlock new loans.
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