via Govt in Hwange rethink – DailyNews Live 19 MAY 2014
President Robert Mugabe’s government has reportedly ordered the replacement of China Machinery Engineering Company (CMEC) on the expansion of Hwange Power Station (HPS) in a desperate bid to improve power supplies, it has emerged.
Government is under pressure to improve supplies of power as it is one of the key services needed in turning around the economy.
This comes as the Chinese company has been under pressure to deliver the project — more than a year after it had won the rights to rehabilitate the thermal station — and thus losing bidder Sino Hydro Corporation (SHC) has been slotted in.
While presidential spokesperson George Charamba was unavailable for comment yesterday, Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire’s mobile phone also went unanswered.
On the other hand, State Procurement Board executive chairman Charles Kuwaza sidestepped the issue, saying only Noah Gwariro’s Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) could comment.
“We facilitate their work in terms of certain provisions of the Procurement Act,” he said in response to e-mailed questions on the alleged tender rethink.
According to sources, Mugabe has ordered the replacement of CMEC as the $1, 4 billion contract had been dragging on for months on the grounds that the Beijing company had failed to secure funding.
“Since last year, you would know that these guys (CMEC) have been given more time to execute the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract, but nothing has materialised,” said the source.
“In light of that, Cabinet has decided to give the second bidder Sino Hydro a chance because CMEC has virtually failed to act on the project. And typical of these Chinese, they come in and tender (for projects) at lower prices, and then scurry for funding from international sources.
“Regrettably, our government has been giving contracts to people with no capacity at all, hence Mugabe’s alleged intervention is laudable given Zimbabwe’s power challenges,” they added.
Under the project, CMEC was supposed to add two more units to HPS’s six generating units and these would have a combined capacity of 600 megawatts (MW).
Apart from hosting delegations from the Chinese company to discuss issues over a possible extension of the EPC contract, Mavhaire recently hinted that government was going to review the proposed partnership.
“They have not been able to come back to us with a funding plan. We have already made gestures to both of them (CMEC) and the ambassador of China as a diplomatic way,” he told a local weekly recently.
“We have concluded as government of Zimbabwe that CMEC will possibly find it a bit difficult to be able to extend Hwange Power Station,”
Mavhaire said, adding Harare had given CMEC “a deadline” although he could not disclose the date the grace period expires.”
Efforts to secure comment from CMEC officials were unsuccessful, but the project comes as Zimbabwe grapples with acute power shortages.
Currently, the country generates approximately 1 300MW against peak demand of 2 200MW — which shortfall is regularly met through imports from the region.