Government today resolved to deal with more than US$80 million electricity debt owed to regional suppliers by the country's integrated power generation and distribution company ZESA Holdings in order to unlock fresh electricity supplies, Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa revealed.
Mutsvangwa also disclosed that the government resolved to pay more than RTGS$20 million towards extinguishing the ZESA debt. Government departments owe ZESA more than RTGS$100 million.
The development comes at a time when the country's power utility is grappling with a recession in water supply for power generation at Kariba Dam and also struggling to service debts to foreign suppliers of electricity due to acute shortage of foreign currency.
The power utility generates about 1 000 megawatts (MW) but needs about 1 700MW. To cover for the shortfalls ZESA imports from regional power utilities. However, it has not been getting adequate supplies because it has been struggling to service debt to regional electricity suppliers due to the acute shortage of foreign currency.
"Government today expressed concern over the long duration of load-shedding and has stepped up efforts to service its debt on electricity to ZESA, Mutsvangwa told journalists at a post Cabinet media briefing adding that.
"It (government) has also resolved to deal with the debt of imported electricity within a certain period of time. Minister of Finance,(Mtuli Ncube) has taken upon himself to pay RTGS$20 million towards servicing of the local debt owed to ZESA by arms of the state (government departments. (Mthuli Ncube) will also pay a portion (about US$10 million to foreign suppliers of electricity and settle the balance later)," she said.
ZESA owes Eskom of South Africa and Hydro Cahora Bassa (HCB) about US$83 million and each one is owed about US$41,5 million. The power utility is also owed about RTGS$1,2 billion by local consumers.
Energy and Power Development Minister, Fortune Chasi, said: "We need to deal with the issue of the ZESA debt, local and foreign. Today, the Finance Minister, Ncube, said about RTGS$20 million is going to be paid to ZESA. However, in the scheme of things, it is a drop in the ocean. ZESA also owes Eskom and HCB about US$83 million, a very huge amount. I can not give you a timeline as to when payment will be made to foreign suppliers but we are in engagement and its a very important matter and urgent one for government.
"We are currently looking at a variety of options to extinguish the debt to Eskom and HCB, chinogadzirisika chinhu ichi (It can be fixed). If we do that Eskom will increase electricity supplies to Zimbabwe from the current 50 MW to about 400MW," Chasi added.