03-14-17 by Spotlight Zimbabwe

South Africa assures Zimbabwe of continued power supplies

HARARE— South Africa has assured Zimbabwe of continued power supplies despite the country struggling to pay off its debt, Zimbabwe’s Energy Minister Samuel Undenge said Monday.

“We have been assured of continued support from Eskom so that we keep the country supplied with power,” Undenge told reporters in Harare on the sidelines of a meeting between Zimbabwe’s power utility ZESA and Eskom of South Africa.

Zimbabwe has a power deal with South Africa under which it can import up to 300 megawatts of power but cash shortages have seen its debt to Eskom rising to 38 million U.S. dollars.

Zimbabwe has been failing to produce adequate power in recent years due to ageing power plants, forcing the country to rely on imports from neighboring South Africa and Mozambique to plug the deficit.

Low water levels in Kariba Dam due to a drought in 2016 also resulted in a further reduction in Zimbabwe’s power production, currently averaging 100MW against demand of 1,400MW.

Zimbabwe’s power demand has declined to 1,400MW from 2,200 MW a decade ago due to low industrial productivity.

Undenge said Zimbabwe will clear the Eskom debt despite funding shortages, and urged customers to pay up their power bills to enable ZESA to raise funds for power imports.

“We discussed the debt issue because it’s a commercial arrangement and we are going to pay for what we import. There are various modalities of payments and as Zimbabwe is going to honor up our payment arrangements.”

“We want a situation whereby we will continue with no load shedding. We have not had load shedding since December 2015,” Undenge said.

He said the two countries’ power agreement was coming to end and will soon be renewed.

South African ambassador to Zimbabwe Mphakama Mbete said energy collaboration between the two countries is important.

“We are hoping for stronger and consolidated bilateral energy collaboration which will strengthen our economies not only on a short-term but long-term basis,” he said.



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