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7 years later ‘nothing is happening with Gwanda Solar Project’- Minister

By Nyashadzashe Ndoro | Nehanda Politics |

Energy minister Soda Zhemu has noted that the controversial Gwanda Solar Project is still stagnant following nine years of court disputes with the Government of Zimbabwe.

Energy and Power Development Minister Soda Zhemu
Energy and Power Development Minister Soda Zhemu

This comes on the backdrop of a major delay for the implementation of a 100 megawatt solar project since its contractor, Intratrek Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), inked a contract in 2014 and the company was awarded US$5 million.

ZESA tried to terminate the contract citing that Intratrek had failed to deliver but a 2019 High Court ruling declared that the contract was valid and directed that the feuding parties negotiate a fresh way forward.

ZESA also failed to succeed in attempts to lay criminal charges against Intratrek director, Wicknell Chivayo and ex-Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) chair Stanley Kazhanje.

On Wednesday, Zhemu was asked by an MDC Alliance legislator during a question and answer session in Parliament on “what practical steps he is taking to resuscitate the Gwanda Solar Project that is lying in limbo?”

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Zhemu responded and said that there was no progress because the Intratrek was still embroiled in court disputes with ZESA.

“Gwanda Solar Project has been embroiled in some litigation issues which we are still working on. At the moment, there is nothing that is happening with the Gwanda Solar Project but after the court processes, we will resume the Gwanda Solar Power Plant,” he said.

This is despite the fact that in July last year, Zhemu’s predecessor, Fortune Chasi said government had resolved to reestablish the implementation plan for the 100 megawatt Gwanda Solar Project after its contractor, Intratrek vowed to deliver the first 10MW within six months after signing of financial closure agreements.

Chasi said the contract was to be undertaken with a team of renowned power project experts and US$14 million mobilised by African Transmission Corporation, a “ready-made” loan funding commitment for delivery of the first 10 MW under the new phased project plan, but until now, nothing has materialised.

“We have taken a robust and pragmatic stance on the project. It needs to move in earnest upon financial closure to make sure that the first 10 MW are delivered within six months of financial closure; that is in 2021 and the remainder by 2022,” Chasi said last year.

Zhemu said the Kariba Power Station is producing 900megawatts at the moment adding that some units are out of service for 12 hours a day due to the rehabilitation of the dam wall that is currently being undertaken. This has resulted in the customised loadshedding through the country.

“From Hwange Power Station as of this morning, it was producing 403 megawatts, giving a total of 1300 megawatts plus the small thermals, we are producing an average of 1400 megawatts from within the country.

“The region is also constrained. We normally get additional power supply from South Africa and Mozambique but because of the demand obtained in those countries, we are not getting enough power from these other countries,” he said. Nehanda Radio