Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) Holdings has warned that the country risks massive load-shedding because of a lack of foreign currency to pay for power imports from neighboring countries.

Zesa is currently importing electricity from South Africa and Mozambique to offset the country's power deficit.

ZESA Chief Executive Officer Josh Chifamba told the Parliamentary Committee on Mines and Energy here Monday that at the moment, the power utility was getting less than half of its weekly foreign currency requirements from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) which is managing the company's nostro account.

Nostro account refers to an account that a bank holds in foreign currency in another bank. The term is derived from the Latin word for 'ours' and is frequently used to facilitate foreign exchange and international trade transactions.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is mobilizing foreign currency for institutions which require funding for foreign international transactions.

"We are being given 1.5 million US dollars per week where we require 5.0 million USD a week," said Chifamba. "We are, as we stand, having some arrears on both accounts, which are Eskom of South Africa and Hydro Carbora Bassa of Mozambique. We are not getting enough funds allocated by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to service those accounts."

Chifamba said Zesa had to make arrangements with some customers to beef up the RBZ allocation. "We have had to come up with some innovative strategies whereby we are talking to our customers in the export business so that they cede to us part of what they retain from their export proceeds so that we can help alleviate this problem," he added.

"But this will be money, additional to what we are being allocated by the RBZ," he said.

He said should shortage of foreign currency persist; Zimbabwe may be plunged into darkness.

"So there is a serious challenge, serious risk and should that happen, then we will go to massive load shedding," he said.

Chifamba added that at times Zesa had to get more than the normal 100 megawatts (MW) of electricity from the Dema emergency power plant as it sought to establish its benefit to the economy.

The plant, which is currently generating 100 MW, was set up to provide additional power supplies after the country's main producer; Kariba Dam, faced production challenges due to declining water levels.

"There are instances when we actually were curtailed and we had to go above 100 megawatts from Dema. Should that happen we would probably want 500 megawatts of power from Dema and that will be serious for the country," he said.