WHY ZESA IS STRUGGLING TO PAY ESKOM :MANGUDYA | Zesa Holdings will pay South African power utility, Eskom, a substantial amount of money to reduce its debt and avoid being switched off, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Dr John Mangudya has said.
Eskom has for the third time in three months threatened to switch off Zimbabwe, which is experiencing acute foreign currency shortages.
The South African power utility is owed about $44 million. Eskom has written to Zesa threatening to cut off the 300 megawatts it supplies to Zimbabwe after the local power utility breached the terms of a payment plan agreed with Eskom in July.
This, Dr Mangudya said, was a result of foreign currency shortages. “We have moved quite a lot and are organising funds to pay Eskom so that we can continue to enjoy electricity supplies,” he said.
Asked why Zesa was defaulting every month, he responded: “It’s not an attitude. We entered into an agreement with Eskom where we are supposed to pay them at least $10 million per week and sometimes, because of the way the foreign currency comes into the country, it is a cyclical in nature, it means sometimes we are behind now and then. But we are going to catch up.
“We had agreed to pay per week but (failed) because of the cyclical nature of our exports. They don’t come one time as you know. We are going to catch up and there will be no switch off.”
Zesa Holdings chief executive Engineer Josh Chifamba is reportedly in South Africa to save the situation.
Just last month, Zimbabwe faced imminent load shedding but the central bank moved in and paid $8 million.
Part of the money also went to Hydro Cahora Bassa (HCB) of Mozambique where the country is getting 50 megawatts.
Any load shedding at the moment will deal a major blow to industry as well as agricultural activities at Grain Marketing Board depots and winter wheat farming that is currently underway.
Zesa in May agreed to pay Eskom about $10 million weekly in a deal that would have seen the debt being liquidated in four months.
At the same time, the power utility agreed to pay for current supplies. Foreign currency shortages have seen Zesa failing to meet the payment obligations. Zimbabwe has been relying on power imports from South Africa and HCB of Mozambique to meet local demand as a way of promoting production in the economy. Zimbabwe consumes about 1 400MW daily.
The country has been receiving steady power supplies since December 2015 as a result of various initiatives such as imports. Zesa is refurbishing its power stations while also working on expansion projects in Kariba and Hwange. The projects take time to complete, forcing the country to rely on power imports.