Maputo — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on Monday declared that the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi is an undertaking for all Mozambicans and an instrument of national unity.
He was speaking in the district of Zumbo, which lies at the western end of the Cahora Bassa lake, over 500 kilometres from Tete city, at a rally marking the fifth anniversary of Mozambique taking control of Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), the dam operating company.
It was on 27 November 2007, that the deal was finalized whereby the Portuguese state sold most of its shares to Mozambique. Prior to that date, Portugal owned 82 per cent of the HCB shares, while the Mozambican state owned only 18 per cent.
Under the agreement Mozambique bought most of the Portuguese shares for 700 million US dollars. The Mozambican shareholding in HCB rose to 85 per cent, and the Portuguese holding fell to 15 per cent. The money came from a loan granted by a Franco-Portuguese banking consortium, which is being repaid out of HCB profits.
Guebuza stressed that, with HCB now at the service of Mozambicans, the national electricity grid based on Cahora Bassa was now extending across the country. The power lines from the dam now reached north to Nampula, Niassa and Cabo Delgado, and south to Manica, Sofala, Inhambane and Gaza.
“That’s why we say that HCB is for all Mozambicans and is an instrument of our unity”, he declared.
He recalled that, when Portugal ran the dam, even Tete province, where the dam is located. was mostly in the dark. Power only reached Tete city, the dam town of Songo, and parts of Moatize and Angonia districts. Now most district capitals in Tete, including Zumbo, have been electrified.
Ironically, the power that lights up Zumbo streets comes, not from HCB, but from neighbouring Zambia. Guebuza noted that HCB power could not yet reach the entire country, since the transmission of power requires pylons and cables, which involve heavy costs.
HCB has, however, been investing heavily in new facilities for the residents of Zumbo. Here Guebuza inaugurated the district hospital, a community radio station and a multi-media centre, all built with the financial assistance of HCB.
“There is HCB, in the form of the hospital”, declared Guebuza. “HCB is among us, and the proof of that is what we have received today”.
He called on the residents of Zumbo to make good use of the facilities built by HCB. The multi-media centre, for example, will allow students to access the Internet, and to carry out research for the school work demanded by their teachers.
Zumbo residents have welcomed their own community radio. Previously, they had such difficulty receiving Mozambican radio stations that they tuned in to Zambian radio instead. Now they say that will be able to hear Mozambican news and listen to Mozambican music.
At the rally, those who spoke asked Guebuza to ensure that Zumbo becomes connected to the HCB grid, and ceases to depend on Zambia.
They also called for a bank to be established in the district since anyone who wants to save money in Zumbo today has to cross the border and use Zambian banks. They urged the government to expand the Zumbo secondary school so that it includes the pre-university course (grades 11 and 12).
Currently the school ends with 10th grade, and the graduates from this level have nowhere nearby where they can continue their studies. Most of their parents are unable to pay for them to study in a school in Tete city.