Allow more players into energy sector

Earlier this week we heard the chairman of the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority briefing Parliament on the various projects that are in the pipeline in terms of providing additional sources of electrical energy.

If implemented they would bring some 300 or so megawatts onto the national grid.

Yesterday we hear d that Zesa had applied for permission to up tariffs for its ring-fenced customers. We also heard early in the week that Zesa is owed more than $18 million by various government deparments. In typical fashion, Zesa threatens to switch off members of the private sector who are in arrears, but not the government departments.

There is nothing mysterious about the power shortages in Zimbabwe. Its just a simple case of demand and supply. Zesa has failed to manage this situation and now wants to recoup through higher tariffs.

There simply must be more players allowed into electrical energy generation. Zimbabwes needs are in excess of 2 000 megawatts, compared to the 1 200 megawatts maximum that Zesa is capable of generating. Its not clear who in the energy chain is stifling the coming on stream of other providers of electrical energy.

Last year, after the first investment conference that was attended by all cross sections of Zimbabwean society and the three main political parties in the country, we were made to understand that there were plenty of investors who had expressed interest.

When quizzed by journalists who exactly the investors were and which of the score of projects that need to be implementedto up the countrys electrical energy requirements, Zesa was elliptical.

We wonder whether the authority, as emphasised by the last of its acronyms, is afraid of losing its long-held monopoly in terms of power supply. And if that is the case, in whose interests is this?

What the nation needs is basically anyone with the competence to complement what Zesa is doing to be given the opportunity to do so. The Ministry of Energy estimates that if the country produces 2 100 megawatts, GDP growth can rise to 13%.

Given such potential, why do we insist on being dogs in manger?

We are still fortunate that there are some investors that are interested in putting their money in Zimbabwe despite there being several other destinations for their money. But when they do find that they are just being strung along, once they go thats it.

This country missed a golden opportunity to capitalise on the goodwill that existed in the years shortly after independence. Instead of creating a positive investment environment, barely three years on, we started butchering other sections of the community based on our tribal prejudices and immediately slipping into the typecast of African cannibals.

The current era, post the world financial crisis, where every economy is still smarting from the effects of the crisis, is an ushering-in of opportunities for new beginnings.

Investors are having a fresh look at the opportunities throughout the world and in our favour is some form of amnesia where part of our past was buried in the economic cataclysm. Yet, we want to remind them that were the same old investor- unfriendly country.

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