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Bulawayo residents demanding their power station back

by Staff reporter
24 Jan 2024 at 19:40hrs | Views
Some Bulawayo residents are demanding that the Bulawayo Thermal Power Station be handed back to the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) instead of being decommissioned.

This came out during an engagement meeting hosted by the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) on Tuesday, with representatives of residents, members of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), councillors and Members of Parliament.

There are reports that the Ministry of Energy and Power Development proposes shutting down the plant due to its alleged irreparable state, sparking debate among stakeholders.

The plant, which has a strong historical significance for the city, has been under dispute for several years now, with various stakeholders suggesting that it be decommissioned while others calling for its rehabilitation.

A researcher from the Public Policy Research Institute of Zimbabwe (PPRIZ), Dr Wayne Malinga, explained that the decommissioning was mooted because the station is not producing electricity anymore.

"The power station at the moment is producing zero megawatts. This is why there are talks of decommissioning. There was a time when it used to produce at least 90 megawatts, yet it had a capacity of producing 120 megawatts. If the station is resuscitated, it would boost industry in the city and it would improve the water supply situation because most of our pumping stations are powered by electricity," Dr Malinga said.

"The property belongs to the city council, but it was leased to ZESA. Has the council been getting what is owed to it in terms of royalties? Why is the government pushing to decommission council property against the will of the people?"

Bulawayo Deputy Mayor, Cllr Edwin Ndlovu, explained that some legal issues need to be addressed over the property and the matter is still before the courts.

"There is a standoff at the moment. The matter is before the courts. ZESA owes city council money for royalties for using the thermal power station, while the city council owes ZESA money for electricity bills," Cllr Ndlovu said.

"In 2022 the government then wrote to the city council, noting that ZESA had acquired a donor that wanted to rehabilitate the power station. They said we (BCC) should go and engage ZESA, with the view of selling the power station to them. The sitting council at the moment, said they could not do such a thing without consulting the residents first."

Cllr Ndlovu said after the consultations were done, the majority of the residents said the property should not be sold, but instead, there should be a joint venture between the council and ZESA so that both parties could benefit.

"The council then resolved that each councillor must go back to their ward and talk to the people about what they want to be done with the power station. The councillors then went to consult their wards, on whether to do a joint venture, to sell the station to ZESA or to refuse totally and retain ownership of the property," he said.

"After the consultations, the majority of the residents had agreed on having a joint venture.  What we have realised recently is that ZESA is now pressed for time because where they had initially got funding promises, the donors may end up withdrawing the offer. Right now the greatest challenge is we cannot say much over the issue because it is still before the courts. If we speak too much we may be caught wanting legally."

BPRA chairperson for Ward 11, Steven Nkomo, called on the councillors to support residents in their quest to retain the power station and fight its decommissioning.

"We understand that some of our councillors just assumed office and they were not party of the ones who have been handling this matter from before. But that does not mean that we don't expect them to do their duties in terms of protecting Bulawayo property," Nkomo said.

"We expect our councillors to rally with the residents, without being partisan. We understand they come from varied political parties and factions but when it comes to such important matters we expect them all to work with unity of purpose because this is an issue that affects the whole city. The councillors must remember that they belong to Bulawayo before they belong to polical parties."

Former deputy mayor, Alderman Mlandu Ncube, alleged that ZESA forged title deeds to the property so that they could renew their license but the city council, in conjunction with BPRA, challenged the request.

"We are grateful to BPRA for picking this up when they did. ZESA forged title deeds to the property so that they could renew their license. However, in so doing, they did not temper with the original title deeds which are kept at the Chamber Secretary's office. They (BPRA) opposed the renewal of the license, which drew the attention of the city council. The Electricity Act gave ZESA power to generate electricity but did not give them authority over the property of the station. When city council checked, they discovered that ZESA had fake documents. They then joined BPRA in opposing the renewal," Alderman Ncube said.

"The other thing that councillors need to relook into is that ZESA is a tenant on council property. The tenant has therefore decided to wind up their work on council property. The joint venture that was initially suggested was in partnership with ZESA, but ZESA is no longer there. So why should we keep talking about a joint venture. These are issues that council must take into consideration."


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