South Africa promises Zimbabwe electricity bailout

Oppah Muchinguri

THE South African Government is considering a proposal put forward to increase power exports to Zimbabwe after high level talks between the two countries’ energy ministers last week.

In a telephone interview with the Sunday News yesterday, Energy and Power Development Minister Advocate Fortune Chasi confirmed meeting his South African counterpart, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Jeff Radebe on Thursday last week.

He said Minister Radebe expressed empathy at Zimbabwe’s power situation.

“We met with the (South African) Minister of Energy the day before yesterday and we discussed with him our situation and he was very empathetic to it. I’m reasonably optimistic that they (South Africa) will be helping us but they will go through their own internal processes to consider our own situation,” said Adv Chasi.

The visit by Minister Chasi to South Africa is his second one this month after having met officials from South Africa’s power utility, Eskom for power talks at the beginning of the month.

Zimbabwe owes Eskom US$27 million, this is after a payment of US$10 million, which it made last month as part of its commitment to pay its debt.

Additional power imports from South Africa will ease the prevailing power shortages, which have seen the country embarking on a daily 18-hour electricity load-shedding schedule. Adv Chasi said the Government would be considerate of the power challenges its neighbour was also facing while going through the negotiations.

“I’m reasonably optimistic now that I have spoken to him (Minister Radebe). I’m also aware of the challenges faced by South Africa and I’m not going to put pressure on the minister and Eskom. They have to carefully consider what we discussed and then come up with a position but like I said I’m reasonably optimistic,” he said.

Adv Chasi said after completing talks with South Africa he would proceed to Mozambique where he is scheduled to meet Government and that country’s power producer Hydro-Cahora Bassa officials.

“I’m yet to finish off (talks) with Eskom. I haven’t engaged my counterpart from Mozambique but once I’m done with this particular situation (talks with South Africa) I will engage the Mozambicans too,” he said.

Adv Chasi emphasised the need for the public and institutions to clear their debts and timeously pay their bills to the country’s power utility, Zesa Holdings to enable it to effectively carry out part of its mandate.

“Generally I think the public needs to understand that Zesa needs the money.

We can make all the noise and blame them for everything on this planet but it needs to be recognised that for us to repair our equipment we need money. For us to install more prepaid meters we need money. Everything that we are faced with needs money.

So really, I want to appeal to Zimbabweans, individuals, local authorities, commerce and industry to pay their bills . . . consumers must pay their debts. It’s a key strategic issue that Zesa be given what it is owed now that we have consumed power already,” he said.

Zimbabwe has been facing a crippling power shortages that has seen most areas going for up to 16 hours without power.

The challenge was caused by low power generation at Kariba due to low water levels.