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Troubled Zesa pins hope on Eskom

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Zimbabwe plans to engage with South Africa’s power utility Eskom in an effort to boost electricity imports.

The country wants to boost imports from South Africa which have been curtailed due to non-payment. But to do so it will need to first work out a payment plan for the estimated US$33m it owes the SA power utility. 

Last week, energy minister Fortune Chasi fired the entire board of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) over ‘incompetence’. 

Zesa is the holding company of electricity distributor ZETDC and electricity generator Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC).

Zimbabwe started implementing load shedding in mid-May due to a combination of low water levels at Kariba Dam‘s hydroelectric power plant, generation constraints at ageing power stations and limited foreign imports.

In late May, Zimbabwe Energy Minister Fortune Chasi told Parliament Kariba could be forced to stop production within 14 weeks as a result of falling water levels.

“There is no guarantee that there will be water, what we are seeing is a southward movement in water levels at Kariba. If the trend goes like that, we will probably say just after 14 weeks Kariba will not generate any megawatts.

“The hydrological condition of Kariba Dam is that last week, the dam was 32% full and on Monday, it was 29% full, and if that trend continues, this means that in theory, within 14 weeks, Kariba will not be able to have power,” Chasi said.

Chasi said board changes at Zesa will not stop plans to engage with Eskom.  “We still have an executive, there is a team that will go ahead and engage Eskom.”

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He said a team was supposed to have gone to South Africa last week but had to delay following ministerial changes in SA’s government. In late May President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the ministries of Energy and Mineral Resources would be merged, with Gwede Mantashe at the helm. 

Chasi said the team has been instructed to negotiate a payment plan. Once a agreement had been reached, Zimbabwe hopes Eskom will boost exports to Zimbabwe by up to 400MW per day. 

The supplies will be during off-peak periods and will allow Zimbabwe to shut off and conserve water at Kariba Dam.

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