Resumption of Zimbabwe’s Gwanda Solar Project in Talks, Parliament Informed

March 19, 2024
Wicknell Chivayo | Report Focus News
Wicknell Chivayo

The Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) has initiated dialogue with Intratrek Zimbabwe to recommence the Gwanda Solar Project, a 100 Megawatt initiative in Matabeleland South province, following legal adjudication, Parliament was briefed this week.

Intratrek Zimbabwe, under the directorship of Wicknell Chivayo, a businessman known for his notable public profile, was initially granted the engineering, procurement, and construction tender for the Gwanda Solar Power Station, which aims to deliver a substantial 1,000 Megawatts of power. The contract, valued at US$173 million, was awarded after Intratrek emerged as the lowest bid that met the project’s specifications out of six competing bids.

The initial phase of the project had seen Intratrek receive US$5 million for pre-commencement tasks such as site preparation and exploratory studies. However, delays led to the termination of the contract by ZPC and subsequent fraud charges against Mr. Chivayo, culminating in a prolonged legal process that concluded in the Supreme Court last January. The court’s verdict acquitted Chivayo and his company of the fraud allegations and upheld the validity of the contract, mandating ZPC to honor its commitments.

In a statement to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy, ZPC’s acting managing director, Norbert Matarutse, outlined that current discussions aim to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court’s judgment and resume project activities.

Legal advisor to ZPC, Tungamirai Chinhengo, sought to clarify financial queries surrounding the project, insisting that the US$5 million paid was strictly for initiation purposes and that no court had mandated compensation for damages to Intratrek. The ongoing dialogues also entail revisiting the contract value, with the aim of aligning the price with the significant decrease in global solar pricing over the past decade due to technological advances.

Zimbabwe’s pressing electricity shortages, which have been aggravated by persistently low water levels at the Kariba Hydroelectric plant due to drought, have cast the Gwanda Solar Project into the limelight. The project’s stagnation has drawn public scrutiny, with some members of the community attributing the energy shortfall to the delays associated with the project.

Mr. Chivayo, following the Supreme Court decision, has pledged to expedite the project. He assured that the necessary financial and technical support is in place to complete the solar power station, which is expected to contribute significantly to the national grid, potentially delivering 10 MW within six months and the full 100 MW within two years.

This development comes as a sign of progress for Zimbabwe in its pursuit of energy security and sustainability, at a time when the nation seeks to diversify its energy sources and alleviate the current power supply crisis.