A Reuters report says that the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) has more than halved its debt to South African power utility Eskom in the past year. Eskom CEO Thulani Gcabashe said on Thursday, “They’ve got their act together and are up to date with their current account and are pre-paying for supplies above the contracted amount of 150 MW”.

“They have more than halved their arrears from a year ago. There is progress. They signed an agreement and they’ve stuck to it,” he added, but declined to put a figure on the debt, in line with government policy.

ZESA slipped into arrears during 1999, running into an outstanding balance of 163m rand ($18m) by June 2000. The arrears were exacerbated by an acute foreign exchange shortage in South Africa’s northern neighbour.

Zimbabwe’s image has been severely damaged over the past year by the government-sanctioned invasion of white-owned farms by militants loyal to President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party.

Mugabe’s controversial drive to seize large tracts of white-owned farmland for redistribution to landless blacks has deterred donors, exacerbating the country’s worst economic crisis since independence from Great Britain in 1980.

Last year South Africa indicated it might take up a stake in ZESA to recover the money owed to Eskom. It also said then that bidding for power stations owned by ZESA was one option open to Eskom to recover its debt.