President Mnangagwa says the government will pay off its debt to South Africa`s power utility – Eskom, by March, a development expected to improve power supply in the country.
According to the president, the country owed Eskom “about $US82 million or so” but since July last year, the country had begun servicing its debt on a weekly basis and by end of March, would liquidate all of it.
“From South Africa, we requested for 400 MW and Eskom said they would give us if we pay our debt, which was US$82 million or so. So we paid that debt and made an agreement after paying a lump sum that we could not pay the full debt. We agreed that we pay on a weekly basis.
“Since July, August last year we have been paying on a weekly basis to Eskom a certain amount and we are liquidating that debt in end of March this year totally,” he told civil society organisations in Bulawayo on Friday.
Previous reports indicated the country was paying US$890 000 weekly to service its legacy debt.
“Once we started easing debt weekly, Eskom gave us 50 MW and 400 MW non-peak time. This is how we are having electricity,” Mnangagwa said, adding, “We were able to have a dedicated 50MW from Cahora Bassa (hydro station of Mozambique) and 150MW during non-peak periods.”
The president explained the country relied on Kariba Dam and in March 2018, the government commissioned the southern bank hydro station that was expected to generate 1050 MW.
“This was to be generated in Kariba on the Zimbabwean side. Hwange is supposed to give us 760 MW and just those two stations alone, without putting into play Bulawayo, Harare and Munyathi, they would produce enough power for Zimbabwe,” he claimed.
“On average, Zimbabwe needs 1 450MW to 1 500 MW and those two stations, Kariba and Hwange, give us more than that figure.”
But due to consecutive droughts, Mnangagwa said the volumes of water in Kariba went down while water from the Zambezi is regulated by the Zambezi National Water Authority.
“This compelled Zimbabwe and Zambia to deescalate the level of generation from 1 050 MW down to about 90MW to 100MW. So we lost 900MW from the Zambezi generation power station, as a result of the impact of drought that meant immediately, the entire country had no enough power,” he said.
The effect of power shortages impacted “agriculture where farmers were unable to irrigate, on industry as it couldn’t run 24 hours, homes of people, hospitals and everywhere, as a result of the impact of drought,” underscored the president.
Mnangagwa quipped, “The government does not control rainfall. I wish we could but then we had to make sure we procure energy from elsewhere.”
He noted that drought was a result of climate change, which was why his government had to effect policies to mitigate its impact.
“So we must now put programmes policy, which gives us energy, whether there is drought or no drought, whether Kariba is full or not full. That is what we are doing now but that has a lead time. We believe that in 18 months thereabout we should not have the same problem again,” Mnangagwa pointed out.