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Zimbabwe Pleads for Southern African Power Line

Jul 20, 2009 - Business Day/All Africa Global Media

Zimbabwe pleaded with international investors on Friday to fund a proposed new transmission line linking SA with the hydro power stations of Zambia and Mozambique.

A Zimbabwean representative at the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Power Sector Investors' roundtable discussion in Livingstone, Zambia, said a new transmission line would help supply power to SA but would also provide an outlet when Zimbabwe completed three new power stations it planned.

These included the Gokwe North coal-fired station, with a 1400MW capacity, the 600MW Hwange Expansion coal-fired station and the 300MW Kariba hydro power plant, said Benjamin Rafemoyo, CEO of the country's Zesa power utility.

Zimbabwe's unity government was holding and was bringing stability to the country, Rafemoyo said.

The line connecting SA with power plants in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique was built with the capacity to transmit 320MW but due to overloading and neglect in Zimbabwe can now carry less than 50MW to SA.

However, Zimbabwe's neighbours came with motivations for funding of their own projects. They said alternatives to the line through Zimbabwe would allow Sadc to reduce the impact that the failure of a single line might have.

Mozambique plan s to build a direct transmission line from its Cahora Bassa hydro power plant to SA . Zambia plan s to build a new transmission line through Botswana to SA, with a junction to Zimbabwe and Namibia .

One analyst, who declined to be identified, said Zimbabwe's political instability had been a wake-up call for the region, forcing it to dust off proposals for alternative transmission lines that had been "talked about for almost two decades".

Victor Utedzi, a consultant on the Zimbabwean government's preferred Central Transmission Corridor Network, said the 100m line could be built faster than the alternatives .

"It is economically viable to beef up the central transmission network via Zimbabwe to enable Eskom to access the electricity from the two neighbours rather than use billions of rands annually running diesel generators in a bid to augment the electricity shortfall currently experienced in SA," Utedzi said.

The network would involve the construction of various new transmission lines within Zimbabwe .

The three-day conference that ended on Friday was attended by representatives of institutions including the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, African Development Bank, Bank of China and the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

Investors remained noncommittal during the conference. David White, of the European Investment Bank, criticised delays in the completion of crucial power generation projects due to bureaucratic and political indecisiveness, saying these had hindered economic growth in most of Africa's economic communities.

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