THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) this week pledged to release US$10 million to Mozambican power company Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB) as part payment for a US$35 million debt owed to the company by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) for power imported from that country.
The payment will be made ahead of next week’s visit by a Zimbabwean government delegation led by Energy and Power Development minister Fortune Chasi to the neighbouring country to negotiate a 400-megawatt (MW) power import deal to alleviate a devastating load-shedding crisis which has paralysed the country over the past four months.
Government hopes the part payment will appease the Mozambican authorities and lead to a new deal, which, if successful, will see Zesa importing 400MW per day from HCB, up from the current 50MW. Zimbabwe has been struggling to generate enough power following a sharp drop in water levels at Lake Kariba which has necessitated the strict rationing of water meant to turn the power-producing turbines at the Kariba hydro-electric power plant. Last month, government clinched a 400MW-per-day deal with South Africa’s Eskom.
Internally, Zimbabwe is producing 782MW per day at Kariba, as well as the Hwange thermal power station and smaller plants which feed into the national grid.
This means Zimbabwe has 1 182MW per day in the national grid, leaving a 618MW-per-day deficit, against a daily requirement of 1 800MW.
A 400MW-per-day deal with HCB is expected to significantly cut the deficit and ensure an almost uninterrupted supply of power. However, Maputo has been reluctant to negotiate with Harare because of Zesa’s massive indebtedness.
Zesa’s acting chief executive Patrick Chivaura told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that government had pledged to pay 29% of the total debt to HCB before negotiations kick off in Maputo next week.
“We were supposed to have left the country this week but there has been a deferment to next week. We will meet the Mozambicans next week. From the Zimbabwean side, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is providing tremendous support and the governor actually has already offered to pay US$10 million before we go. There is also the weekly arrangement that he also proffered for payment of US$500 000 on a weekly bases,” Chivaura said.
“Currently we are getting 50MW at the moment and sometimes we were getting 200MW we hope to negotiate for more. It all depends on how we deal with the debt and how they view themselves, they will call the shots.
“Should we get additional power from Mozambique, that will beef up what we are getting from South Africa. It will reduce (load shedding) significantly, but not quite to zero . . . If we get 400MW from Mozambique, then that will sort out the problem. So if we get 400 from Mozambique and 400 from South Africa, then we are home and dry.”