Former War Veterans minister Chris Mutsvangwa has charged that the $250 million Dema Emergency Power Plant was a money-spinning project by the ruling party’s G40 faction.
Sakunda, owned by Zanu PF benefactor Kuda Tagwirei, partnered President Robert Mugabe’s in-law Derrick Chikore, brother to Simba, who is married to the president’s daughter Bona, in the dodgy and costly diesel-fired power plant, which has since grounded to a halt on the back of fuel challenges.
The G40 faction is made up of Zanu PF members rabidly opposed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s mooted presidential ambitions. The plant was meant to supply about 100 Megawatts (MW) per hour into the national grid at $0,15c/MW.
The plant has not been operational for over four months as Sakunda has been struggling to access fuel to service the plant.
Mutsvangwa claimed that he had vehemently opposed the proposal in Cabinet when he was still War Veterans minister, arguing that the project was not sustainable.
“But the G40 ministers had other primitive money-making ideas. They cunningly avoided third nations as that would have eaten into their diabolically hefty commissions. They opted to foist the deal on reluctant Zesa (Zesa Holdings) management,” Mutsvangwa told the Daily News.
“In Cabinet in 2015, I argued in vain that non-Opec (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) and landlocked Zimbabwe can never afford electricity generated from diesel. Greed blocked the ears of G40 ministers who awarded themselves this crazy tender.”
Initially, awarded with National Project Status, the project saw Sakunda being exempt from paying duty on fuel imported for the project.
There have been allegations that part of the fuel was being sold on the black market, although there is no evidence to corroborate this.
Nonetheless, sources said the allegations led to government withdrawing the privilege. According to Mutsvangwa, who is the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans.
Association (ZNLWVA) chairperson, he initially floated the idea to generate electricity using cheaper fuel, the sludge from petroleum refineries from the Opec Gulf region as opposed to using diesel.
“Furthermore, I suggested that an electricity generating ship be hired and be anchored at Beira harbour. It will be easier, cheaper and quicker to commission the heavy sludge electricity generators…
“To further save on costs, the ship would power Beira while Zimbabwe would get its electricity from Chikamba Hydroelectric Power Station in nearby Vumba in Mozambique.
“So transmission costs would be reduced and distance loss shortages minimised. “Zambia did it from Nacala to cope with last year’s drought that negatively hit its Kafue hydro power plant,” Mutsvangwa said.
Efforts to get a comment from Zesa CEO Josh Chifamba did not yield results yesterday as his mobile phone went unanswered.
The plant is located less than 500 metres from Murape Secondary School and about two-and-a-half kilometres from the tollgate, which leads to Hwedza, and reportedly produced toxic carbon monoxide from the burning of 460 000 litres of diesel daily.
Reportedly erected without the mandatory environmental impact assessment, the plant is less than 350 metres away from Chitate Village in Seke, exposing scores of people to polluted air daily.
The development comes as it has also emerged that Zimbabwe’s local power production slumped 23 percent in the first three months of 2017, spurring power shortage concerns from the market.
With a local demand of about 1 400MW, the country has been struggling to pay regional power suppliers that include South Africa’s Eskom and Mozambique’s Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa.
The country — heavily reliant on hydropower generation— is presently upgrading its Kariba Hydro Peaking Station, and ramping up production at local thermal stations, which are Munyati, Harare and Bulawayo.
To date, capacity at Hwange has also gone up to an average of 500MW on the back of maintenance work on the station, up from 300MW.