DESPITE unprocedurally receiving a US$5 million advance payment from the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), controversial businessman Wicknell Chivayo is yet to begin work at the site of the proposed US$200 million solar power project in Gwanda, Matabeleland South.
The Zimbabwe Independent this week visited the project site at the 400-hectare Judd’s Farm on the outskirts of Gwanda town. There was no evidence of work being done and the project taking off.
Energy Minister Samuel Undenge reportedly pressured ZPC to pay Chivayo’s Intratrek Zimbabwe about US$5 million towards the construction of the 100-megawatt solar project in the absence of a bank guarantee to protect public funds. It, however, appears the funds are yet to be invested in the project as nothing is happening there.
In April Chivayo told this paper that the project was ahead of schedule.
“The financial closure process is running well ahead of schedule. I can share with you and the Zimbabwean public that we are ahead of schedule with our contractual milestones as per the contract signed between our two parties, and have already commenced working on site,” he said then.
The Independent’s visit found that apart from clearings for gravel roads in the vast sun-beaten farm, which some residents said was part of the servicing of stands for the nearby Jacaranda and Spitzkop suburbs being extended to the eastern fringes of the land, there is little else to suggest a massive project is in the offing.
In addition to the arid, acacia and thorn shrubs, the farm also houses the town’s sewage works.
Judd’s Farm has also become a haven for gold-seeking prospectors who have opened up small rudimentary mines in search of the precious mineral.
Gwanda Town Council officials professed ignorance of the project. Most did not even know where it will be located.
Several workers at the sewage works claimed they had never heard that the farm would accommodate the power plant.
A senior council official who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were now sceptical of Chivayo and government’s commitment to the project as “the last time we saw anyone or anything in connection with project was when (Dzikamai) Mavhaire came for a field day when he was Energy Minister in 2014.”
Gwanda Mayor Knowledge Ndlovu on Wednesday said Intratrek officials visited his offices last month and declared their intention to “soon” begin preliminary work on site which would involve clearing the vast bushy area.
“Personally I haven’t been to the site, but the company indicated that they are now on site and ready to begin preliminary work. I would have to find out more information from our engineers,” Ndlovu said.
Chivayo did not answer his mobile phone or respond to messages asking comment on the issue.