BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
ZIMBABWE’S power utility, Zesa Holdings says the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has not provided with foreign currency to import power since last October.
This comes as the southern African country is experiencing a severe power crisis due to low electricity generation at Kariba Power Station which accounts for about 37% of internal power generation.
“Let me say this, it must be understood by everyone, we have had no load shedding in the past four or five years. I think everyone of us is acquainted with that. What has been the reason for that to happen that way? We have always had a deficit of internal generation in the country, we have always had it. But, we were covered very well, I must say, by the Reserve Bank all those four or five years until October last year,” Zesa Holdings acting chief executive officer, Patrick Chivaura, told a recent business meeting.
“We were not able to meet our forex obligation. To make the face of electricity or power (situation) worse, we also have to endure with the loss of water in Kariba and that has changed the face of our production in power. Last year, we saw the commissioning of the Kariba South Power Station which added 300MW to our grid and we saw a reduction in imports last year and sometimes we did not even import anything from Eskom because of that change.
“There was water last year and we could generate as much as 1050MW, but today the amount of water that we are able to use to generate power has been reduced to the extent that we can only do 358MW of generation at Kariba where capacity is 1050MW. You can call that an act of God or drought.”
Before the commissioning of the extra power units at the Kariba South Hydropower Station, the RBZ used to provide US$5 million weekly to import electricity from South Africa’s Eskom and Mozambique’s Hydro de Cahora Bassa (HCB).
Zimbabwe’s power generation is ranging between 1180MW to 1530MW against peak demand of 1800MW.
RBZ governor John Mangudya, however, said the only reason why Zesa was getting money for the past four or five years was because government was running an overdraft facility which enabled Zesa to purchase power.
“Zesa does not necessarily have enough local dollars for foreign currency, and that one is a fact. And, it is true that there is sub economic pricing and that people do not pay Zesa. Zesa is owed too much money by those using the electricity, that’s true,” he said.
“So while you had your electricity for four or five years we were paying for it all of us as a country because Zesa was able to purchase currency using that overdraft from government and that was happening, and is a fact of life. So, if today you are trying to analyse the US$3 billion (overdraft facility) and how much Zesa was granted in that figure while your business was running we need now to do a cost benefit analysis for the economy.”