Wicknell Chivayo Promises To Revive Gwanda Solar Project 9 Years After Blowing Cash On Shoes, Mercs, Aquas
25 May 2024
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By Farai D Hove | Harare, Zimbabwe – After nearly nine years of inertia, the Gwanda solar power project is set to resume, sparked by a recent negotiation between the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) and Intratrek Zimbabwe Pvt Ltd. The development follows a Supreme Court ruling that upheld a contract signed back on October 23, 2015, between the parties, affirming Intratrek’s position led by the controversial businessman, Wicknell Chivayo.

In a surprising pivot from his past high-profile purchases of luxury shoes and sports cars, Chivayo has promised to breathe new life into the 100-megawatt solar facility. This announcement comes at a critical juncture when skepticism about his commitment to substantial ventures prevails, further fueled by a scathing portrayal in a recent Herald article and sharp critiques from President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“The Supreme Court’s decision provides a legal pathway to finally move forward with the Gwanda project,” said Tungamirai Chinhengo, ZESA Holdings’ Legal Advisor. “We are now focused on renegotiating aspects of the contract concerning technology, price, and implementation timelines.”

Despite the judicial victory, the project’s resurrection is not without its challenges. Prolonged negotiations and financial uncertainties loom, with ZPC still finalizing financing details, critical for determining the project’s new timeline. “A concrete timeline is elusive at this stage,” Chinhengo admitted, reflecting on the complexities of securing project finance.

Acting ZPC Managing Director, Norbert Matarudza, shared a cautiously optimistic outlook, suggesting that negotiations might conclude within six months. Yet, this timeline contrasts with historical delays seen in similar projects and the intricate nature of financial negotiations.

“Past projects, even without legal hurdles like Hwange seven and eight, took years after the contract was awarded to reach financial closure,” Matarudza pointed out, indicating that the timeline for Gwanda might extend further.

Mhangwa, chairperson of the Energy Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, expressed concerns over the feasibility of Matarudza’s timeline, hinting that it could be overly ambitious. “Given the complex history of this project and ongoing financial negotiations, expecting a resolution in just six months might be unrealistic,” Mhangwa noted.

The negotiations are also set to address the evolution in solar technology and cost adjustments, necessary due to the long delay. “The contract will need to reflect current technological advancements and market conditions,” stated Engineer Forbes Chanakira, ZPC Acting Project Technical Director.

As talks proceed, Chivayo’s renewed commitment to the project and its potential impact on Zimbabwe’s energy sector remains under intense scrutiny. The outcome will not only shape the future of the Gwanda solar project but also define Chivayo’s legacy in Zimbabwe’s economic development landscape.