‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ slogan is hot air, says ex-Eskom boss

Matshela Koko

BULAWAYO – The oft-repeated claim by President Emmerson Mnangagwa that “Zimbabwe is open for business” is hot air, according to Koko Matshela, the former head of South Africa’s power utility, Eskom.

Matshela, now the head of Matshela Energy, was awarded a power generation licence in July last year, but no development has taken place in Gwanda, Matabeleland South.

“Matshela Energy remains committed to the Gwanda project. We have followed every single process imposed on us. We remain hopeful. It’s easy to say Zimbabwe is open for business. Practically, it is extremely challenging,” Matshela wrote on Twitter April 17, reacting to reports that the Zimbabwe government has drawn up a 10-year plan to ramp up power production through solar power stations.

“My advice is that we talk less and deliver more. There is too much talk and less progress. The people of Zimbabwe want to see yellow machines breaking ground. Investors are there. They are not asking for government money. But they are still not breaking ground. Why?”

In December last year, Matshela claimed “so many people have tried to extort money from me and I refused, it is a shame.” Energy Minister Fortune Chasi challenged him to submit the evidence, but it is not known if Matshela did.

“We remain engaged with the relevant authorities,” Matshela said. “We are ready to bring the yellow machines to break ground. We are not asking for ZESA or government money. We sincerely hope there will be traction soonest.

“When you have regulations and policies in place and investors follow them without fail, the outcome should be predictable. Our experience tells that’s not the case. Regulatory and policy certainty is a real problem (in Zimbabwe).”

Matshela’s power project is expected to add 100MW to the national grid when complete, easing the current power deficit which has seen Zimbabweans go for up to 18 hours without power. It will also have a 40 MWh energy storage facility.

He had initially planned to do the ground-breaking in August last year, but he says he has been kept waiting by Zimbabwean authorities. – ZimLive