State Media|THE dispute between the Bulawayo City Council and the government run Zimbabwe Power Company over the ownership of the Bulawayo Power Station has taken a dramatic twist after it emerged that title deeds to the disputed property were transferred to the power utility without the knowledge of council.
This comes despite the local authority previously boldly claiming they had the title deeds to the property and the power utility was in actual fact their tenant.
The power station is historically a land mark building for the City of Bulawayo which in its hay days got the City the nickname “KoNtuthu Ziyathunqa” (a place of smoke) as the power station produced non stop smoke in the production of thermal power that supplied the now defunct city industries with electricity.
It is not clear how the ZPC got to have the title deeds as the power station was constructed and fell under the jurisdiction of the local authority until 1987 when Zesa was given the sole mandate of power generation in the country, taking over from local authorities.
Zesa was then required to pay royalties to the local authority, a matter which has also been subject to controversy after the power utility reneged in paying the royalties to the council, with the debt currently standing at $105 564 101. Over the past few years the council, with the backing of residents, has been pushing to reclaim the running of the power station arguing that not only did they have the title deeds to the station but Zesa was a dishonest tenant.
However, investigations have revealed that the power station’s title deeds have since been transferred to be under the jurisdiction of Zesa, a matter that has caught the local authority by surprise and have made moves to challenge the transfer in the courts of law.
A visit to the deeds office confirmed that the title deeds to the power station were endorsed in July 2017 to Zesa. The local authority’s chamber secretary, Mrs Sikhangele Zhou, also confirmed the recent developments revealing that they were in the process of challenging the transfer of ownership in the courts.
“We only got to know of the transfer of ownership last year when we aired our objection in the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera)’s move to renew the Zimbabwe Power Company’s power generation licence for the Bulawayo Power Station.
“Zera informed us that there was an endorsement on our title deeds and indeed when we went to check at the deeds office, we found there was a change of ownership which caught us by surprise because this was done behind our back as we have the original title deeds which is why we are preparing our papers to challenge this illegal endorsement at the courts,” said Mrs Zhou.
Efforts to get a comment from Zesa spokesperson, Mr Fullard Gwasira were fruitless. However, a source from the company in Bulawayo said the station was now under the ownership of Zesa.
“Yes, the title deeds are now under the name of Zesa, just go check with the deeds office,” said the source.
Commenting on the matter, Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association acting co-ordinator, Mr Emmanuel Ndlovu said there was something amiss with the transfer of ownership of the power station which had to be investigated and rectified.
He revealed that they were also taking court action against the power utility to challenge the transfer of ownership arguing that the power station belonged to the residents of Bulawayo and cannot be transferred without the knowledge of residents.
“We are certainly taking court action to ensure that the matter is rectified, our legal team will soon be meeting with council’s legal team to share notes and map a way forward.
“However, we are clear that the property belongs to residents and transferring it to Zesa is illegal. What we will also be challenging is the decision by Zera to renew the power utility’s power generation licence despite both the local authority and us as residents noting our objections,” said Mr Ndlovu.
In December last year, Zera announced in a public notice that it had received an application from ZPC for amendment of the electricity generation licence to be extended by 20 years from 2024.
The licence was also to enable it to produce 120 megawatts of power with 90 megawatts to be fed into the national grid. Residents, through the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association and the Bulawayo City Council, had objected to the application saying they were the owners of the power station. Zera, however, went on to renew the licence last month.