Eskom has confirmed the sale of electricity to Zimbabwe but denied that the power supply agreement with its Zimbabwean counterpart the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) is secret.
Eskom said the deal is part of an arrangement among southern African power utilities to sell surplus electricity to each other.
Media reports in Zimbabwe have alleged that Eskom has entered into a "secret" deal to sell 300 MW of electricity to the neighbouring country, which has been experiencing power shortages lately. The reports also quoted Zimbabwe Energy and Power Development Ministry Permanent Secretary Partson Mbiriri saying the deal has to be kept under wraps "for security reasons".
In a statement on Monday evening, Eskom confirmed the sale of power to Zimbabwe "but there is no secrecy about this", it said. Eskom is part of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), and so is Zesa, where member utilities sell surplus electricity to each other depending on the need, Eskom said.
"South Africa, through Eskom, has been involved in the electricity sector in various countries in Africa for a long time and has utilised different forms of engagements. This has been done mainly through bilateral trading arrangements, using instruments such as power purchase and power sales agreements.
"Eskom is also committed to ongoing participation in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region through SAPP as an institution. SAPP is made up of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, connected through an integrated grid," Eskom said.
Load shedding fears linger
The sale of excess power to other countries is an emotive issue for most South Africans, given the country's own recent power shortages. While Eskom has not implemented load shedding in the past few months, fears of power cuts still linger.
In the comprehensive statement, Eskom went into detail about its involvement in various power agreements in the rest of Africa.
"Participation in East and West Africa (Uganda and Mali respectively) has been undertaken through long-term Operating and Maintenance Concession Agreements.
"The flagship regional projects that Eskom has been involved in over the years include the Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB) hydro scheme in Mozambique, with the explicit objective of developing the HCB infrastructure to generate power and distribute to the territories of Mozambique and South Africa for the benefit of the people of the respective countries.
"Eskom also plays a pivotal role in the transmission interconnection that connected Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa in 1995, which opened up a corridor for electricity to flow as far as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the north and Namibia in the far south-west," it said.
Eskom's regional development strategy involved creating the Southern African Energy Unit, through which South Africa imports electricity from Lesotho, Mozambique and Namibia, and sells electricity to Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, on either firm or unfirm agreements.
"We are aware that our responsibilities to supply our neighbouring countries may create an apparent conflict when the domestic supply-demand balance is constrained. To reduce the impact of exports, we have ensured that power supply agreements with SAPP trading partners are sufficiently flexible to allow for the following controls during emergency situations in South Africa," Eskom said.