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Zimbabwe’s Rio Energy Ltd’s plans to construct a US$ 3 Billion thermal power plant in Sengwa, Gokwe District, with
financial assistance from China Gezhouba Group Corporation are at an advanced stage1. Rio- Energy Ltd, a subsidiary of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) listed RioZim recently confirmed the commencement of the Sengwa Coal Plant construction. The power plant at Sengwa will be constructed in four phases of about 700 megawatts each, bringing total capacity of the thermal plant to 2,800 megawatts3. The activities that have already been completed to pave way for the construction of thermal plan include; a full design and feasibility of the power station as well as the design of power evacuation lines, a coal mining plan and fuel coal delivery to the station4. The thermal power plant is expected to produce electricity for both local consumption and exportation.

This thermal power project has been on the cards since the 1990s but could not take off due to lack of funding. Part
of the project entails construction of a 250-kilometer pipeline that will transport water from the Zambezi River to the
Sengwa plant, and construction of a 420 kilovolt-ampere power line, both which will be developed by Power China, a
renowned international energy company. The plant will be fired by coal from Rio Zim’s coal fields in Sengwa with  proven ore reserves in excess of 525 million tonnes, enough to “support a 10,000-megawatt plant at Sengwa”, according to Caleb Dengu, chairman of Rio Energy. RioZim, through Rio Energy Ltd owns coal mining claims in Sengwa. There is evidence that the commencement of the Sengwa power plant is now imminent, with precise indications that construction will start this year.

The conclusion of this coal plant investment deal is a negative step by the Government of Zimbabwe of increasing energy supply in the country through a globally condemned fossil fuel technology. There is no doubt that addressing energy deficits in the country remains at the centre of the country’s economic recovery, social and economic development and transformation. Notwithstanding the energy needs of the country, the proposed project comes with environmental and social cost costs which cannot go unchallenged. This paper analyses the political -economy of the project and its likely impacts on social and environmental rights of the communities in Sengwa. The analysis is meant to provoke debate among communities and civil society regarding transparency and accountability the Sengwa Coal Power Plant project.

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