By Chris Musekiwa
The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) and UCAZ recently held a joint planning workshop at the ZESA National Training Centre. The workshop was the first ever between the two organisations. This was after the realization that urban local authorities and ZETDC were operating in silos, yet they served the same clients.
Acting ZETDC General Manager, Eng Abel Gurupira in his opening remarks informed participants that over 440 000 new homes were occupied countrywide without electricity within the past few years. He said this would not be the case if ZETDC and local authorities had been sharing their development plans. He said that it was important that the backbone infrastructure in all residential and commercial developments included electricity infrastructure.
ZETDC officials have revealed residential developments which did not incorporate electricity infrastructure exposed beneficiaries to exploitation by land developers, especially cooperatives who are charging the beneficiaries in the region of US$2000 to US$3000 as fees for the installation of electricity infrastructure. They said that if electricity infrastructure costs were to be included in the development plans, the costs would be drastically reduced to not more than a US$1000. This, they said, could only be achieved if local authorities and ZETDC shared development plans.
The objectives of the workshop were to review the current co-operation arrangement between urban councils and ZETDC Planning Section; to develop a National Electrification Strategy for all suburbs, industry and commercial properties in the urban councils; incorporate all urban councils into the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) and ensure co-operation and sharing of data; come up with a firm strategy of managing and sharing servitudes across all service providers to ensure there is no damage to cables and equipment; establish public lighting (Traffic Signals) road map; establish demand side management (DSM) and energy efficiency road map to assist councils cut or optimize energy costs and set up a co-operation strategy for Solar Pumping or Complementary supplies.
Planners from urban councils, chairpersons and secretaries of UCAZ professional forums and ZETDC senior management, engineers and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) specialists, attended the workshop. Presentations touched on the following topics: New Electrical Connection Data; National Spatial Data Infrastructure and Cooperation, National Urban Councils Electrification Strategies; Prioritisation of Service Providers in Servitudes; Proposed installation of Backbone Infrastructure by Developers of Residential Schemes; Renewable Energy Supply of Pumping Stations and Sewage and Cooperation in Public lighting.
After discussions, participants agreed that urban councils should submit 2024 new connection schedules and shape files. Regarding the new 440 000 properties requiring electricity connections, local authorities were urged to enforce inclusion of backbone infrastructure in the costing of layouts and as a pre-requisite for development permits.
It was also agreed that ZETDC and UCAZ would establish a technical committee for the development of wayleave and servitude guidelines. This is targeted at service providers whose cables and pipes are in servitudes. They include internet and cellular network service providers.
Urban councils and ZETDC will jointly develop a Demand Side Management and Energy Efficiency, Solar Pumping / Complimentary Power Supply and Public Lighting (& Traffic Signals) Road Maps.
ZETDC pledged to build GIS capacity for local authorities that did not have it. This would enable them to put all infrastructure on GIS and create shape files. A shapefile is a simple, nontopological format for storing the geometric location and attribute information of geographic features.
Chairperson of the Town Clerks Forum Eng. Sherina Sibanda appreciated the exchange of ideas between ZETDC and local authorities. “A lot of issues were ironed out, especially misconceptions that local authorities as well as residents had about how ZETDC operates,” she said. She added that a new strategic partnership was established between LAs and ZETDC.
“This will go a long way in ensuring that power gets to the residents faster than what has been happening. A lot can be done to reduce power consumption and if these entities work together as resolved, it will be easier to roll out projects to decrease over usage electricity and also promote usage of renewable energy,” said Eng. Sibanda.
Speaking at the end of the workshop, the Town Clerk of Redcliff Municipality and Vice Secretary of the Town Clerks Forum Mr Gilson Chakauya, said in his vote of thanks remarks that ZETDC and urban local authorities had eventually found each other. He said that this was the beginning of a new era adding that if such collaboration had been in place there would be no need to take each other to court because there would be mutual understanding, creating a positive atmosphere for continuous dialogue.
Mr Livison Mutekede, the UCAZ Secretary General who unfortunately could not attend the workshop, hailed the collaboration between UCAZ members and ZETDC stating that the quality of services will improve tremendously.
“I foresee seamless development of modern and quality infrastructure going forward. We will continue to nurture this relationship for the benefit our citizens. Local authorities and ZETDC are both governmental institutions whose clients are the same citizens of Zimbabwe,” he said.