Questions about possible sabotage of a Mozambique dam

Published 6 May 2009

Four men were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of trying to pour corrosive chemicals into turbines at the large Cahora Bassa hydroeolectric plant in Mozambique; technicians at the dam say plot would not have succeeded

Technical experts at the Cahora Bassa hydroeolectric plant in Mozambique are mystified by police reports that four foreigners, including a South African, have been arrested for trying to sabotage the plant. Police spokesperson Pedro Cossa said in Maputo on Tuesday that the unnamed men — a South African, a Motswana, a German and a Portuguese — had been arrested. IOL reports that the four had allegedly attempted to put a corrosive chemical in the turbines of the Cahora Bassa hydro-electric dam on the Zambezi River. Cossa said police had confiscated 500 kg of the yet-to-be-identified chemical. “The suspects were caught putting the substance into the dam’s turbines,” said Cossa.

A technical expert at the Cahora Bassa plant said on Wednesday the police story was “idiotic.” He said the four men apparently dumped the substance into the Cahora Bassa lake from a boat. “It’s ridiculous to imagine that this could damage the structural integrity of the dam or its turbines,” the source said. “No dam anywhere on the planet has been damaged in this way.” He also said it was not true that the chemical was being analyzed in a Cahora Bassa laboratory, as police said.

The police had not even spoken to Cahora Bassa management about it by late on Tuesday.

Nomfanelo Kota, spokesperson for the SA Department of Foreign Affairs, said on Wednesday the SA High Commission in Maputo had confirmed the arrest of the South African and had asked if they could have consular access to him. Kota would not provide any details of the South African other than to say he was 21.

Cahora Bassa is touted as one of the solutions to the power crisis in the Southern African Development Community region. It supplies power to South Africa, Mozambique and Malawi. There are plans to connect Botswana, Tanzania and Swaziland.