By Reagan Malumo
Amid pomp and pageantry, President Hifikepunye Pohamba and his Zambian counterpart, Levy Mwanawasa, last Friday jointly commissioned the 220kV Victoria Falls-Katima Mulilo Transmission Line at Katima Mulilo.
The two presidents met at Katima Mulilo and were accompanied by Namibia’s Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Dr Nicky Iyambo, Zambian Minister of Energy, Water and Development, Kennedy Konga, Western Province Minister, Adonis Mufalali, as well as Caprivi Regional Governor, Leonard Mwilima, Chairman of the Electricity Control Board of Namibia, Simasiku Siseho, NamPower Managing Director, Paulinus Shilamba, and his counterpart the Managing Director of Zesco, Rhodnie Sisala.
Several members of the diplomatic corps were also present.
The two presidents unveiled the plaque at the Sesheke Substation on the Zambian side first before proceeding to the Zambezi Substation at Katima Mulilo where they unveiled the second plaque. They then proceeded to the Katima Mulilo Sports Complex where they delivered speeches to members of the public on the joint power scheme.
In their commissioning speeches, the two presidents applauded the two power utility companies, Zesco and NamPower for taking a giant step to construct a 220kV line from Victoria Falls to the Zambezi Power Station at Katima Mulilo for N$96 million.
Pohamba applauded the Zambian people and government for the selfless support rendered to the Namibian people during the liberation struggle, which has now expanded to consolidate bilateral relations based on mutual respect.
He said the Namibia-Zambia Joint Permanent Commission was established to address issues of common interest in the areas of transport, energy, crime control, health, and education. Apart from the Sesheke-Katima Mulilo power transmission line, Pohamba cited the already constructed Zambezi Bridge as a millstone, which has facilitated the movement of goods and people between the two countries.
He said the commissioning of the transmission line is part of the Zizabona Agreement signed between Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia in which the power grid from these countries will be linked via the Hwange Power Station in Zimbabwe. The President said the initiative will be carried out to enhance regional integration within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) states, and thus it will go a long way towards the realisation of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) and the promotion of inter-utility cooperation in the planning and operation of the regional electricity networks.
“Power is a catalyst for social-economic development. In this regard, reliable electricity supply will enable us to improve the living conditions of our people as well as to attain the Millennium Development Goals” the president said, stating that the SADC region currently faces a critical power shortage due inadequate power generation capacity and that experts anticipate the situation to prevail till 2010. Last month the SADC ministers of energy met in Gaborone, Botswana, to work out measures that will speed up short-term energy generation projects. The projects will amount to US$8 billion.
Pohamba said Namibia fully supports the initiative and that currently efforts are underway to refurbish existing power station to address energy demands.
He said Namibia is harnessing resources for the Kudu Gas Field for power generation. He said plans are also underway to build a 400 megawatt base load power station at Walvis Bay. He added that the governments of Namibia and Angola are also pursuing the implementation of the Baynes Hydro-Power Project on the Kunene River.
The President said that economic development in Africa will manly depend upon a reliable power supply.
“I am informed that with the installation of additional equipment at Sesheke Power Station, voltage stability has been improved”, said Pohamba. He said the power line has therefore addressed power interruptions that were experienced by the residents of Katima Mulilo.
Meanwhile, President Mwanawasa said he was pleased to note that the two countries agreed to work together to realise the completion of this project and that the commissioning of the transmission line is a symbol of commitment to increase infrastructural development between their people.
He said in 1990, Zambia commissioned the first 11kV line to Namibia. This power line was upgraded to 66kV and then to 220kV this time.
Mwanawasa said the power line and the bridge, which was commissioned four years ago are a beacon of the excellent trade relationship between the two countries as enshrined within the SADC protocol. He said apart from the two projects, the Trans-Caprivi Highway is one of the success stories through which Zambia has benefited in terms of trade.
Mwanawasa said while NamPower is expanding electricity lines to the entire town of Katima Mulilo, Zesco is also committed to expanding another line that will link areas such as Mongu, Sinanga, Kalabo and many other parts of western province of Zambia to the power substation.
Both presidents were confident that the Victoria Falls-Katima Mulilo transmission line would contribute to the strengthening of the cordial ties of trade co-operation between the two sister countries. They both expressed commitment in tighten trade relationships in the SADC region and the continent.