Wicknell Chivayo vows to revive Gwanda solar project 9 years after spending money on shoes, Mercs and Aquas – ZimEye

Wicknell Chivayo vows to revive Gwanda solar project 9 years after spending money on shoes, Mercs and Aquas

By Farai D. Hove | Harare, Zimbabwe – After almost nine years of inertia, the Gwanda solar power project is set to resume, prompted by a recent negotiation between Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) and Intratrek Zimbabwe Pvt Ltd. The development follows a Supreme Court ruling which confirmed a contract signed again on October 23, 2015 between the parties, affirming the position of Intratrek led by controversial businessman Wicknell Chivayo.

In a surprising turn from his previous 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 time when skepticism prevails over his commitment to substantial projects, further fueled by a scathing description in a recent Herald article and harsh criticism from President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

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

Despite the judicial victory, the resurrection of the project is not without challenges. Prolonged negotiations and financial uncertainties lie ahead, and ZPC is still finalizing financial details critical to determining the new project schedule. “At this stage it is difficult to establish a concrete timeline,” admitted Chinhengo, reflecting on the complexities of securing project financing.

ZPC acting CEO Norbert Matarudza shared a cautiously optimistic outlook and suggested negotiations could conclude within six months. However, this timeline contrasts with historical delays seen in similar projects and the convoluted nature of financial negotiations.

“Previous projects, even without legal obstacles such as Hwange seven and eight, took years to reach financial close after the contract was awarded,” Matarudza noted, indicating that the timeline for Gwanda could be extended further.

Mhangwa, chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Energy, expressed concern about the viability of Matarudza’s schedule, hinting that it could be too ambitious. “Given the complex history of this project and the ongoing financial negotiations, expecting a resolution in just six months may be unrealistic,” Mhangwa said.

The negotiations will also address the evolution of solar technology and cost adjustments, necessary due to the long delay. “The contract should reflect current technological advances and market conditions,” said engineer Forbes Chanakira, interim technical director of the ZPC project.

As talks progress, 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 will also define Chivayo’s legacy in Zimbabwe’s economic development landscape.