JUST IN: Gwanda solar investor makes bribery claims

The Chronicle

Harare Bureau

A SOUTH African investor, who was recently awarded a licence for a US$250 million 100MW solar project in Gwanda, Matabeleland South claims the deal is being frustrated by officials who are pressing for a bribe.

Former South African power utility, Eskom, CEO Engineer Koko Matshela made the claims on social media while reacting to a post by Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana quoting President Mnangagwa condemning corruption.

President Mnangagwa threatened to crack the whip on Government officials frustrating investors by sitting on their papers in a bid to get bribes.

He said this last week while commissioning Varun Beverages’ three production lines in Harare.

“There are people in Government who are stalling some projects, including those from India,” said President Mnangagwa.

“I now have a list of those projects. I direct whoever is sitting on those projects to move these projects or you will be moved.”

After Mr Mangwana posted the President’s statement on Twitter, Eng Matshela, who got a licence for a 100MW solar project, said he was also a victim.

“Matshela Energy received a generation licence July 2019. Six months later, nothing has happened. Our plan was to break ground in August 2019.

“So many people have tried to extort money from me and I refused, it is a shame,” said Eng Matshela.

He posted a conversation with a named Zimbabwean who told Eng Matshela in WhatsApp conversations that he could assist him in getting “strong” local partners.

When asked by Eng Matshela if he was the strong local partner, he replied: “We can assist. Ok sir, we are here to assist if you need help. We know you are stuck at Zera (the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority). We can assist. We become your local partners by getting us something from the project. Only if you are willing,” said the man.

The Herald contacted ZERA’s acting chief executive officer Mr Eddington Mazambani yesterday to establish the exact challenges that Matshela Energy was facing, resulting in them failing to kick-start their project.

Mr Mazambani said: “Zera expedited the issuance of the generation license in July this year. He went on to amend the technology to include storage, which was not part of his initial application.

“At PPA (power purchase agreement) negotiations he couldn’t agree with ZETDC (the Zimbabwe Electricity and Transmission Distribution Company) that’s the stage they’re at.

“Zera can’t be part of PPA negotiations unless they declare a deadlock. The message circulating on social media can’t be any further from the truth.”

Eng Mazambani said Zera was a “transparent organisation and to suggest any deliberate undermining of projects was not only mischievous, but also defamatory”.