BULAWAYO City councillors and management Friday walked out on Energy Minister Fortune Chasi who was chairing a stakeholders meeting which rubberstamped plans by the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) to demolish the city’s two iconic cooling towers without consulting them.
The councillors, led by Mayor Solomon Mguni, told the Minister that they were fed up with the ZPC management they accused of arrogance and disrespect towards the city fathers and management.
“Minister, we want to make it very clear that we attended this so-called stakeholders meeting under protest,” Mguni said.
“Firstly, we are stockholders to the cooling towers and not stakeholders.
“We own the cooling towers and yet we are not even on the programme of the day.”
Mguni said the issue of the cooling towers is before the courts and the issue could only be resolved after the courts.
“Honourable Minister, as a lawyer, you know very well that when an issue is before the courts, it cannot be deliberated on. We have three pending courts cases against three ZPC subsidiaries including this issue of the cooling towers,” said Mguni before leading fellow councillors and management walk out.
The cooling towers at the centre of the storm
Speaking at the meeting, ZPC General Manager in charge of Plant Revival, Engineer Fannie Mavhondo told the stakeholders that the ZPC shareholders and directors have already approved the demolition of the cooling towers.
“Cooling Tower 1 and 2 have deteriorated badly. These two towers are the oldest structures and they manifest advanced symptoms of deterioration including some holes right through to their hyperbolic cells. If one of these towers were to collapse it might inflict damage on adjacent structures including cooling tower 3,” said Mavhondo.
He said the company engaged Mortech Engineering in partnership with Rankine Engineering Solutions (RSA) to do Structural Integrity assessment of the Bulawayo Power Station plant and equipment including cooling towers.
Mavhondo assured the stakeholders that the proposed demolitions will not affect power output.
“The repowered station will require only four cooling towers to support generation of 90MW, hence the demolition of cooling tower 1 and 2 will not affect the operation and performance of the repowered plant.
Most of stakeholders expressed reservations to the proposed demolition of the towers.
“We do not trust ZPC. ZPC should also iron out their differences with council so that resident can have a buy-in into the project. Right now the residents are not sure if the project will be completed,” said a resident.