By Bernard Mpofu
The outbreak of the coronavirus has slowed down expansion works at Hwange Thermal Power Station, Zimbabwe’s largest thermal power station, it has emerged.
China’s Sinohydro was contracted to carry out the project but global fears of the coronavirus which was first reported in the worlds’ second largest economy has retarded progress.
Zimbabwe has recorded two positive cases of the virus which claimed its first victim on 23 March 2020, Zororo Makamba, the son of top businessman and politician, James Makamba.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has since effected a 21-day lockdown as part of efforts to arrest the further spread of the deadly coronavirus in the country.
According to the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), the country’s power utility, four out of the five major power stations in the country are coal-fired. A few years back, government undertook to increase capacity at Hwange Power Station after experts said the plant was antiquated and required a facelift.
The US$1,5 billion project which officially commenced in 2018 was seen as a major step in increasing Hwange’s capacity from the current nameplate capacity of 920 megawatts (MW). The expansion capacity would result in the establishment of two units with a total of 600MW.
Cabinet recently announced that the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, had slowed down the expansion works.
“The Hwange 7 and 8 expansion projects are well on course, to meet set targets, though currently experiencing challenges from the COVID-19 which is affecting movement of experts in and out of China,” the government said in a statement after a cabinet meeting.
According to the 2019 Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) manufacturing sector report, Zimbabwe’s top markets for raw materials are South Africa which accounts for 36%, China (21%), India (9%), United Kingdom (6%), South Korea (4%), Germany (3%) and Zambia (2%).
Since these countries have issued lockdowns, making it hard for local firms which rely on raw material imports to buy from them, the manufacturing of goods for the local market is being constrained.