Chinese firms on short list to power up Zimbabwe

2012-07-14 10:06

Three Chinese companies have been short-listed by the Zimbabwean ministry of energy and power development to expand operations at the Hwange and Kariba power stations at a cost of $2.4?billion (about R20?billion).

The proposed expansion of Hwange and Kariba power stations is expected to boost the country’s power supply, which is in the red and is unable to meet the current monthly demand of 2?200MW.

According to the power utility, Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa), the expansion at Hwange is estimated to cost $1.7?billion and at Kariba will cost nearly $700?million.

Hwange and Kariba power stations have a combined output of 1?300MW and the expansion by China Gezhouba Group, China Machinery Equipment Corporation and Sinohydro Corporation is expected to add an additional 900MW of power to the country’s national grid.

The Energy and Power Development Minister Elton Mangoma said: “Only Chinese companies have been shortlisted after others missed the extended deadline of July 5. We are giving them 90 days which means by September they should have finished meeting the required specifications.”

Political observers say the short list for the expansion of the power stations to Chinese companies comes with little surprise as China seeks to extend its tentacle-like grip on Zimbabwe’s economy.

Chinese companies have interests spread out across the telecommunications, military, tourism, mining and construction sectors.

Political analyst Charles Mangongera said China’s focus in the prime sectors in Zimbabwe was linked to its expansionist foreign policy and it had little regard for human welfare in host nations.

“Unlike the US, which has a very well established tradition of offering humanitarian support as a way of cementing relations with other countries, China does not.

“China’s foray into Zimbabwe is primarily commodity driven and profit oriented, and as such it only supports capital projects from which it can extract something?.?.?.?That is their model,” said Mangongera.

In total, 11 companies submitted tenders last year to expand Zimbabwe’s two largest power stations whose electricity shortfall has resulted in daily power cuts that last up to eight hours a day.

Only VIPs such as President Robert Mugabe, the military generals, airports and hospitals are exempt from the power outages which have affected recovery prospects for the local manufacturing industry.

It remains unclear if any South African company submitted a bid to expand the power station, but last month the state parastatals Minister Gorden Moyo met with his South African counterpart, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba seeking a restoration of ties with Eskom.

Eskom, weighed down by growing demand for electricity in South Africa and non-payment of debt, severed ties with Zesa in 2010, forcing the country to turn to Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for power imports.

Meanwhile, the beleaguered Zesa received a dressing down from Attorney-General Johannes Tomana over threats by its workers to plunge the country into darkness this week over a salary dispute.

Zesa workers are demanding monthly salaries of $650 (about R5 336) for the lowest paid worker.

Tomana said: “The workers want to get what they want through sabotage. Sabotage is a word that speaks a crime and anybody who violates a law that protects the country and its economy would face a heavy penalty.

“It is common knowledge that if they switch off electricity we lose a lot of money,” he said.

But the Zimbabwe Energy Workers Union president, Angeline Chitambo, insisted this week that the industrial action would take place if their demands were not met.

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