Kariba South: A gi­ant awak­ens

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - NEWS - Kuda Bwititi Chief Re­porter

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.

Sat­is­fied

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.

Work ethic

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.

Due dili­gence

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.

Win-win

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.

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