ZIMBABWE will receive free electricity until March next year from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in return for increased military support to prop
up security around President Joseph Kabila, the Independent has learnt.
Under the arrangement, Zesa Holdings will continue to receive 80 Megawatts (MW) from DRC’s power utility SNEL but will not be required to pay for the imports under the arrangement.
Instead Zimbabwe will be required to send in more military personnel to the DRC to assist Kabila’s security team and this will be taken as payment. Zimbabwe has maintained its presence in the DRC, through a small team that has helped guard Kabila since the death of his father, Laurent Desire Kabila who was assassinated by his bodyguards in 1999.
Sources close to the developments said the deal was discussed some weeks back when a high level delegation from the DRC visited Zimbabwe. The delegation is expected back in the country soon. The delegation reportedly met with Energy and Power Development minister Mike Nyambuya, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono and the Joint Operations Command (JOC) and held discussions on a wide range of matters, including power supplies.
According to the sources, two defence chiefs in JOC put the matter on the table for discussion with the DRC delegations and discussed the matter in-depth.
“Talks are now at an advanced stage but in principle there was an agreement. I do not see anything that should stop the deal as both sides were of mutual consent to the proposal,” said one of the sources.
According to the sources, Snel would have supplied Zimbabwe with more power had it not been for technical constraints in the generation of power in the DRC and its wheeling to Zimbabwe.
“As a result of the limitations, the current deal is for between 80 to 100 MW of power. But engagements are ongoing and new deals could be struck soon,” he said.
A government spokesperson, Deputy Minister of Information and Publicity, Bright Matonga refused to shed light on the matter.
“Those are issues of national security and national interest,” Matonga said.
He poured scorn over suggestions that Zimbabwe would prop up Kabila’s protection.
“The DRC troops are capable of protecting their own president. We have very good relations with the DRC. Remember we gave them the freedom and independence they enjoy today. Still the matter remains a very private issue,” Matonga said.
Zesa Holdings chief executive Ben Rafemoyo would not be drawn into commenting on the matter.
“On those discussions — if ever they took place — I have to refer you to government and the minister (Nyambuya) specifically,” he said.
But Nyambuya denied that he had met with the DRC delegation.
“I did not meet with any DRC delegation,” he said before hanging up.
Questions sent to the army had not been responded to at the time of going to press despite assurances from one Mushakavanhu from the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) that a military spokesperson would do so by end of day yesterday.
Gono was said to be out of the country with his personal assistant saying he would only be able to respond to the questions on his return. Rafemoyo said he was not aware if any such deal had been reached as Zesa was not responsible for all payments for power made to suppliers such as Snel.
He said Zesa had been making partial payments for its supplies from foreign currency paying clients and that the balance was being paid by the central bank.
“Some of the money we pay from revenue generated by foreign currency paying customers, the rest is paid for by RBZ,” he said.
RBZ has played a central role in Zesa’s affairs, sourcing the foreign currency to pay for importation of power from neighbouring countries.
Four months back, it was revealed that the central bank had paid over US$100 million for Zesa and troubled state airline Air Zimbabwe to pay for the debts.
Rafemoyo revealed that DRC would soon be increasing its output to Zimbabwe from the current 80 MW to 100 MW in the medium term before increasing 300 MW once work being carried out on the Inga project is complete.
Zimbabwe requires between 1800 MW and 1850 MW of electricity daily.
Electricity generation falls far short forcing Zesa to import an average of between 500 MW and 600 MW of power daily to meet demand.