THE $10 million payment made to South Africa's power company Eskom does not guarantee the availability of electricity in Zimbabwe, a Cabinet minister has said. This comes at a time when the country is facing serious power shortages that have resulted in Zesa Holdings introducing 16-hour power cuts per day, leaving many residents and industries stranded.
The country's blackouts are attributed to the power company's failure to service its debts while low water levels in Kariba Dam coupled with obsolete equipment at the Hwange Thermal power station have reduced the hydro-electricity generating capacity. Energy minister Fortune Chasi said while we have paid $10 million "this is no guarantee for power. We need to negotiate. The public owes $350 million. It must be paid."
News about Zesa's payment to Eskom had created confusion as the South African firm claimed over the weekend that it had not received any money from Zimbabwe. Chasi was forced to block brickbats over the issue and eventually posted confirmation of the $10 million transfer yesterday.
The US$10 million that was paid is part of a combined US$83 million debt owed by the country to South Africa and Mozambique's Hydro Cahora Bassa. In recent weeks, Chasi said the country can be able to access as much as 400 megawatts if it manages to clear its debt. At the moment, the country is only importing around 50 megawatts to augment its power capacity.
As the power shortages escalate, Chasi also threatened to cut supplies to defaulting users including political heavyweights, adding the power company is owed huge sums of money by local consumers. "Zesa has a legal obligation to cut its losses. It cannot continue to supply power to people who do not pay. Switching off non-paying consumers is a real option. Be warned.
"This is regardless of what or who you are," Chasi charged.