Dema power project dead in the water

HARARE - The $250 million Dema Power Plant — set up to provide emergency power in the wake of electricity shortages due to low water levels in Kariba Dam — has been mothballed on the back of fuel challenges, it has been learnt.

A short-term initiative implemented to alleviate the country’s power shortages, the diesel plant was spearheaded by Sakunda Holdings — a major local fuel supplier.

It was meant to supply about 100 Megawatts (MW) per hour into the national grid at $0,15c/MW.

Businessdaily can, however, reveal that the plant has not been operational for over four months as Sakunda has been struggling to access fuel to service the plant.

“Dema, which is supposed to be supplying 100MW into the national grid has not been able to do so because of fuel challenges, so obviously this has been bad for the nation,” a Zesa Holdings board member told the Daily News earlier this week.

Initially awarded 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 was no evidence to corroborate this.

Nonetheless, sources said the allegations led to government withdrawing the privilege.

While efforts to get a comment from Sakunda chief executive, Kuda Tagwirei, were futile as his mobile went unanswered, the businessdaily is reliably informed that Sakunda decided to halt operations at the site — which has about 225 generators — as it was realising losses of between $800 000 and $1,3 million from the plant monthly.

Tagwirei could not respond to text messages sent to his mobile.

When our news crew visited the site yesterday, there was no life at the plant.

In fact, there was a deafening silence, uncharacteristic of the usually noisy site.

All gates were locked, with only guards and a few officials going about their duties at the premises.

Ex-workers who spoke to the crew said the plant had been offline save for an occasional maintenance exercise which would see one of the generators being switched on in-between periods.

“This thing was only fully functional for about the first four to five months.

“There was a lot of noise coming from the diesel generators that the whole village had changed the way they talk, speaking in high pitched voices to hear each other properly but now we have reverted to our normal way because the generators have not been running for quite some time now,” an ex-employee and Dema resident said.

The worker also pointed out that life in the village had gone back to normal following the lack of activity at the plant.

“Suckling mothers had also changed the time table to wash their babies’ nappies to avoid the dust raised by convoys of fuel tankers bringing in diesel to the plant, all that has changed as well as they no longer come.

“Several women from the surrounding villages who were making a living form selling sadza there have also stopped because there are no more employees there.

“Locals who used to work there have since stopped because there are now only guards there,” said the ex-employee.

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, exposing scores of people to polluted air daily.

The development comes as it has also emerged that Zimbabwe’s local 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 — which has been struggling to pay regional power suppliers that include South Africa’s Eskom and Mozambique’s Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa — Zimbabwe has a supply of just over 1 000MW and relies on imports to plug the deficit.

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.

Comments (1)

ha ha - Sakunda Holdings - these were the fools who said they would grow a million hectares of maize - next they will be mining a million tons of gold somewhere ! Maybe they will find a million litres of diesel in a rock near Chinoyi !!

biggus dikkus - 22 July 2017

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