Corrupt ZESA management blocked Econet plan to solve power crisis

By Strive Masiyiwa | 22 Jul 2019 at 15:26hrs
In the wake of a power shutdown, and a failure by Econet generators to immediately kick-in on July 20 which led to massive disruption, Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa shared his frustrations over Zimbabwe's perennial power deficit which he says could have been solved over a decade ago if the government had not frustrated his company. In the article published on Facebook with the title, 'Why I hate corruption!', Masiyiwa said:

IN about 2007, as Zimbabwe lurched into hyperinflation, and foreign currency disappeared, our local management were faced with a big, big problem: Electrical power!

The cell phone network is one of the biggest single consumers of electricity in the country. Over 10MW distributed nationally. Base stations were collapsing, and service was degrading on a daily basis.

The management travelled to South Africa to meet the board and discuss an emergency solution. We brought in experts including many former engineers of the national power company, ZESA, to try and understand what could be done. There is no problem without a solution, if you bring in the right people!

Finally, we came up with a plan, and we asked the CEO of Econet Zimbabwe to present it to the management of ZESA. The plan would have unlocked over US$250 million in loans guaranteed by us, and over 500MW of power. It would have seen the country able to build new facilities.

The response from the ZESA management [at the time] was scandalous. Totally scandalous!

They told us: "Since you are not popular with the government, they will not listen to you. Let's form a private company with some of our own executives, and you can lend money to that company secretly."

One even proposed his brother as a director of such a company! I was stunned when I heard.

Next, we approached the power regulator (ZERA), and asked for an independent licence to produce power. They told us that they had already given licences to people who had not built, so they could not issue another licence, even though they appreciated we could build.

And guess what?! The politically-connected guys who had licences were then tipped off, and they came rushing to see us, with the most ludicrous corrupt proposals. "You provide 100 percent funding, and give me 51 percent for free," one demanded.

One guy even flew to South Africa in a bid to see me personally. I refused to even see him.

Our board withdrew the efforts, and we just gritted our teeth to weather the storm. We were forced to shut down large sections of our network. Sad!



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