Parliament summons Sakunda over diesel plant

HARARE – Parliament has summoned the directors of Sakunda Holdings to appear before the Mines and Energy portfolio committee and give oral evidence on the stalled Dema Emergency Diesel Peaking Power Plant project.

The $250 million Dema Power Plant — set up in 2016 to provide emergency power in the wake of electricity shortages caused by the low water levels in Kariba Dam — has since last year been mothballed on the back of fuel challenges.

In a schedule issued by the assistant clerk of Parliament Johane Gandiwa for the current week, the directors of Sakunda Holdings will today appear before the Mines and Energy Portfolio Committee chaired by Norton Member of Parliament Temba Mliswa to explain the operations of the Dema plant.

The meeting, which will be open to members of the public and the media, will be held in the Senate Chamber.

A short-term initiative implemented to alleviate the country’s power shortages, the diesel plant was spearheaded by the Kuda Tagwirei-led Sakunda Holdings — a major local fuel supplier.

It was meant to supply about 100 Megawatts (MW) per hour into the national grid at $0,15c/MW.

Since the Daily News visited the site in July last year, the plant has not been operational.

Initially awarded National Project Status when it was initiated, the project saw Sakunda being exempted from paying duty on fuel imported for the project.

There have been allegations that part of the fuel was being sold on the black market, although there was no evidence to corroborate this.

Nonetheless, sources say the allegations led to government withdrawing the privilege although other sources say Sakunda decided to halt operations at the site — which has about 225 generators — as it was realising losses of between $800 000 and $1,3 million from the plant monthly.

When the Daily News visited last year, ex-workers who spoke to the crew said the plant had been offline save for an occasional maintenance exercise which would see one of the generators being switched on in-between periods.

The plant is located less than 500 metres from Murape Secondary School and about two-and-a-half kilometres from the tollgate, which leads to Hwedza, and reportedly produced toxic carbon monoxide from the burning of 460 000 litres of diesel daily.

Reportedly erected without the mandatory environmental impact assessment, the plant is less than 350 metres away from Chitate Village, exposing scores of people to polluted air daily.

With a local demand of about 1 400MW, the country — which has been struggling to pay regional power suppliers that include South Africa’s Eskom and Mozambique’s Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa — Zimbabwe has a supply of just over 1 000MW and relies on imports to plug the deficit. – Daily News