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Mozambique Cuts Off Power to Zimbabwe Over "Unpaid Debt"

Jan 8, 2008 - BBC Monitoring

Mozambique's Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB) power utility has suspended supplies to Zimbabwe over unpaid debt, adding more woes to a country in deep recession and grappling with shortages of hard cash, food and every essential commodity.

Sources at state-owned Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority Holdings (ZESA Holdings) told ZimOnline that HCB switched off supplies to Zimbabwe at the beginning of this month after ZESA Holdings failed to clear an outstanding US$26 million debt that was due last December.

Mozambique's Cahora Bassa Dam (ZimOnline 8 Jan 2008)

"They (HCB) have not been supplying us with power since the 1st of January. They were expecting us to have settled the outstanding debt by December," said a senior ZESA Holdings official, who did not want to be named because he did not have permission from the power utility to speak to journalists.

ZESA Holdings' chief executive officer Ben Rafemoyo confirmed the termination of supplies but insisted his company was in negotiations with the Mozambican energy firm to resume supplies to Zimbabwe.

"We are trying to catch up with the ballooning debt. They (HCB) are insisting that we clear what we owe them," Rafemoyo told ZimOnline.

HCB's decision to cut supplies to Zimbabwe is sure to worsen electricity shortages in a country that consumes about 2,200 megawatts per month but can only generate about 1,500 megawatts.

The huge power deficit has previously been filled up with imports from South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

However, South Africa's Eskom power firm has stopped exporting power to Zimbabwe as it battles to meet rising domestic demand, while Zambia and the DRC suspended supplies to ZESA Holdings over unpaid debt.

The hard cash-strapped ZESA Holdings' only response to a burgeoning energy crisis has been to implement a punishing power rationing regime to save on the little electricity available while ensuring key sectors of the economy are supplied.

Under the rationing schedule, supplies to domestic consumers can be cut for up to 20 hours a day while power is supplied to industry and other productive sectors.

However, the worsening energy crisis is only an addition on a long list of hardships bedevelling Zimbabwe in the grip of an economic meltdown critics blame on repression and wrong policies by President Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe, in power since Zimbabwe's 1980 independence from Britain and seeking another five-year term in elections in March, denies ruining Zimbabwe and instead blames his country's problems on sabotage by Western governments he says are out to topple him.

Originally published by Zim Online, Johannesburg, in English 8 Jan 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Africa. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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