Article Republished By Javier Troconis
Sikhumbuzo Moyo and Leornard Ncube, Senior Reporters
ELECTRICITY problems are set to be a thing of the past in Bemba area of Tsholotsho following construction of a 60kw solar plant by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) that has seen 30 homesteads being connected as the Government continues with its developmental projects in the region.
The 30 connected homesteads are only using two percent of the total energy.
It is a pilot project that is set to be replicated in all Matabeleland North districts.
The solar plant, located near Bemba Primary School and a clinic under Chief Tategulu in Ward 2 was started in 2017 after the parastatal applied for land from Tsholotsho Rural District Council.
President Mnangagwa is set to officially switch on the power sometime this month in what would be a massive boost for Tsholotsho villagers.
Tsholotsho, like other districts in Matabeleland North, faces electricity challenges caused mostly by vandalism of infrastructure and technical faults due to falling of poles either as a result of rains or veld fires.
Some civil servants shun working in parts of Matabeleland North because of poor living and working conditions compounded by lack of electricity.
The solar plant is expected to power Government offices and institutions such as clinics, schools and police stations, among others in the district.
It comes when Government has intensified the drive for renewed energy inspired by the growing demand and a need to balance environmental interests and climate change concerns.
“We expect the Minister of Energy and Power Development or the President himself to come and commission it. That is a pilot project which will be rolled out to other districts and the idea is to have all Government departments and institutions electrified so that they are able to execute their mandate effectively,” said Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo.
Tsholotsho District Development Coordinator, Mr Aaron Gono, said the solar plant will help improve the district’s economic activity. He said the project is in line with President Mnangagwa’s vision of leaving no one and no place behind.
“This is a 60kw plant and is in line with the country’s Vision 2030 for an upper-middle-income society. Connectivity to Bemba Primary School will promote information communication technologies as well as improve access to water and other income-generating projects,” said Mr Gono.
He said solar energy will help Bemba Clinic with safe storage of medicines and improve on health services.
“There is a likelihood of a business boom and revival of an irrigation scheme which had been abandoned because of lack of water supply. We are now assured of reliable provision of potable water to the community and animals and this will ultimately improve livelihoods,” he said.
The Government has invited independent power producers (IPPs) for partnerships to improve energy sufficiency in the country.
Enduring Sun Energy, a consortium of Zimbabweans, Geobase Clean Energy and Frenell of Germany, are also spearheading a solar energy project in Tsholotsho which is expected to have an initial capacity of 3MW and likely to be expanded after completion of the power deeds assessment exercise.
This is part of a national plan by the local IPPs and their German partners to benefit rural hospitals benefit through solar energy.
So far Manama Mission Hospital and Maphisa District Hospital, in Matabeleland South, and Tsholotsho District Hospital are set to benefit from the project.
President Mnangagwa recently commissioned a 5MW solar plant at Cross Mabale in Hwange, while a 100MW is also being constructed in the same district as the province invests in clean energy.
Besides solar, there is gas, wind and hydropower energy that the Government is also pursuing.
Hydroelectric plants will be set up at Lake Gwayi-Shangani and Batoka Gorge in Matabeleland North.