Energy and Power Development Minister, Fortune Chasi yesterday cleared the air over the US$10 million that the Government paid to South African power utility Eskom as part settlement of the country’s electricity debt by releasing proof of payment.
The move followed accusations last week that he had lied that a payment had been made to Eskom after the South African power utility denied that it had received any payment from Zimbabwe.
“Once Eskom has received the funds, we will then enter into further discussions with Zesa,” Eskom group chief executive Phakamani Hadebe said last week.
The US$10 million is part payment of a debt of more than US$30 million owed to the utility, which is currently supplying Zimbabwe with about 50 megawatts of power.
“Lies have short legs. This is what I lied about. I am sorry,” Minister Chasi said on Twitter in a sarcastic message accompanying the proof of payment which was done through Stanbic Bank on Monday.
Finance and Economic Development Permanent Secretary, George Guvamatanga on Monday came to Chasi’s defence saying he had not lied as the Government had started the process to make the payment when he made the announcement.
Zimbabweans have largely become irritable over power issues as the country is battling a huge deficit that has resulted in the introduction of massive load shedding, lasting for over 17 hours a day.
Minister Chasi has said the country’s power utility, Zesa Holdings, owed neighbouring power utilities Eskom and HCB of Mozambique a combined US$83 million. The two utilities are, however, prepared to supply Zimbabwe with more power on condition part of the debt is settled.
“Zimbabweans, while we have paid US$10 million this is no guarantee for power. We need to ne
gotiate. The public owes $350 million. It must be paid,” Minister Chasi said.
A combination of drought in the past season and unmaintained generation equipment at Hwange thermal power station is blamed for the power woes the country is facing.