Kariba South: A giant awakens
KARIBA South Hydro Power Station, whose expansion project was commissioned by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on March 28, is now operating at full throttle and contributing 1 000MW to the national grid.
The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority said last week that power imports declined 50 percent in the second quarter of 2018 as a result of the plant’s expansion.
The $533 million project, which entailed adding two units with a capacity to generate 150MW each, is a beacon of the relationship between Harare and Beijing.
It is understood that China’s Sinohydro Corporation, the principal contractor, is ready to hand over the venture to its local partner, Zesa subsidiary the Zimbabwe Power Company.
The mega power project was bankrolled through a $60 billion facility unveiled in 2015 by China at the Forum for China-Africa Co-operation (Focac) in Johannesburg, South Africa.
ZPC Kariba South general manager Mr Kenneth Maswera told The Sunday
Mail during a recent visit to the station that the new units were operating “exceptionally well”.
“We are now producing more than 1 000MW of total power in Kariba, which is something that we have never done before here. We are quite happy that so far the plant has performed exceptionally well through the two units which both are feeding 150 MW to the national grid to add to the 750MW that we already had,” said Mr Maswera.
“Actually, in Africa, this is one of the best projects that they have done and they have done so in such a short time.
“Currently, we are at the stage we call the bathtub, where the plant is settling down. If there were going to be any problems, we would have identified them by now, but we are very happy so far,” he said.
Despite the huge scope of works, the project was completed within 14 months.
According to Mr Maswera, local workers who were involved learnt a lot from the Chinese work ethic.
“The Chinese have a very different working culture compared to ours. They work to task, but we Zimbabweans work to time.
“The Chinese are task-oriented. It was a huge effort and we give them credit for giving total commitment and energy to ensure that this project became a success. These guys were tough and some of our workers also adapted slowly to the type of work. Our locals learnt a lot.”
Sinohydro site manager Engineer Wang Botao said Chinese workers involved in the project were geared to finish on time, and they often had to forgo holidays and weekends.
“Many of us never took a holiday and not even a weekend off during these hectic fourteen months. We had to make sure we had to finish the project first before thinking about our families in China.”
There were 400 Chinese workers and 1 300 locals directly employed by Sinohydro for the project. Local contractors also got a piece of the pie.
Mr Maswera said ZPC’s engineers regularly travelled to China to enhance their expertise and ensure that engineering work was done to perfection.
“What we have learnt with the Chinese is that you need to create a good relationship with them. The critical thing about the project is that our engineers were going to China at every stage. We made sure that every stage, from material tests and equipment assessments, were done meticulously.
“We encourage other companies that engage the Chinese to do the same painstaking authentication. We were very thorough in our work and whenever we felt that a certain product was not of the right standard, we would raise alarm,” said Mr Maswera.
He said in addition to providing quality products that are “as good as anywhere in the world”, labour costs for Chinese engineers were relatively cheaper than other parts of the world.
China’s Deputy Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Zhao Boagang said the success of Kariba South sent a strong message to sceptics of Sino-Zim relations.
“Some people always say China is not doing anything tangible here, but the Kariba South project is clear evidence of the positive work that has been done on the ground. In such contracts, there is usually one Chinese worker for every ten or more locals. This shows it is Zimbabweans who benefit more from these projects.”
Kariba South Hydro Power Station, Mr Zhao added, was the culmination of the development assistance bankrolled through Focac.
“This is just one example of projects that have become successful as a result of the implementation of Focac. In 2015, China committed US$60 billion to Africa for the period 2015 to 2016. As of now, up to 90 percent of that money has been used up. Zimbabwe has also benefited and the Kariba South project is just one example of the benefits of Focac-based initiatives.”
Sinohydro project manager Mr Duo Chengqun said would maintaining the plant for two years.
“It was not easy, but this project is a highlight of the good friendship between Zimbabwe and China. We have experienced many problems, but we are happy that we have done our part to build Zimbabwe. We are now hoping to go ahead and do the Hwange Project.
“We are just rounding up the work here, but we are ready to handover the project to ZPC so that they take full charge, because they are our employer. We will have about two years of maintenance with few workers who will remain, but the majority of the work has been completed,” he said.