HCB denies threatening to cut off power to Zimbabwe

Maputo (AIM) – Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), the company that operates the Cahora Bassa dam in the western Mozambican province of Tete, has denied press reports in Zimbabwe that HCB is about to cut off power to Zimbabwe because of unpaid debts.

Source: HCB denies threatening to cut off power to Zimbabwe – The Zimbabwean 26.05.2017

The Harare daily “Herald” on Tuesday cited Josh Chifamba, the Chief Executive of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), as saying that, because of foreign currency shortages, ZESA has been unable to pay debts owed to HCB and to the South African electricity company, Eskom.

The “Herald” article claimed that HCB and Eskom had both given ZESA an ultimatum – pay up by 31 May, or the power to Zimbabwe will be switched off.

But a senior source in the HCB management, contacted by AIM on Thursday, categorically denied that there was any such ultimatum. He said that, while he could not speak for Eskom, HCB has continued to negotiate with ZESA and there is no question of turning the power off at the end of May.

The “Herald” had claimed that the debt to HCB was 40 million US dollars, but the HCB source said the true figure is around a quarter of that, about 10 million dollars. This, he said, was “a historic debt”, and the last time ZESA had paid anything on it was ten months ago.

But the debt is not getting any larger, he added, because nowadays ZESA is regularly paying the monthly invoices it receives from HCB.

The source added that the debt had been discussed at a meeting in Harare earlier this week, and it was agreed that ZESA would pay off the arrears by August.

Currently HCB supplies 50 megawatts to ZESA, but the line from Cahora Bassa to Zimbabwe could carry much more, if ZESA was willing and able to pay for it.

ZESA’s problems with Eskom seem much more serious, since Eskom supplies Zimbabwe with 300 megawatts.

The “Herald” put Zimbabwe’s electricity requirements at 1,400 megawatts, but the ageing equipment in Zimbabwe’s own power stations can only produce 980 megawatts. The supplies from Eskom and HCB are thus crucial to avoid large scale blackouts.

ZESA is hoping that a Chinese company, Sinohydro, will come to its rescue by expanding the Kariba South power station by 300 megawatts. The first 150 megawatts from this plan should come on stream by December, and the rest in the first quarter of 2018. The cost of the Kariba South expansion project is 533 million dollars.