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The history of the Zambezi River Authority may be said to have begun in November 1964 when the Central African-Council appointed the Inter-Territorial Hydro-Electric Commission.

In May 1951 the Commission recommended the development of a dam at Kariba and hydro-electric power station. In June 1954 the Hydro-Electric Power Act was passed which provided for the establishment of the Federal Hydro-Electric Board charged with the function of Coordinating the generation and supply of electricity within the Federation.

In May 1956 the Federal Power Board was established pursuant to the enactment of the Electricity Act. This was a reconstitution of the Federal Hydro-Electric Board. The new Board was vested with the power to construct dams and power stations, to transmit electric power and sell same to Electricity undertakings. A hydrological data collection organisation operating in each territory was also established.

In 1963, the Federation was dissolved. The integrated systems for the control of generation of power and its transmission continued to be operated and was fully developed as a single system under joint ownership and control of the two Governments of Northern and Southern Rhodesia under the Central African Power Corporation (CAPCO) which was established in the same year.

CAPCO was vested with the assets and liabilities of the Federal Power Board. The general function of CAPCO was to supply electricity to Electricity undertakings in the two territories while its conduct was regulated by a higher authority for power comprising two ministers appointed by each of the two Governments.

In 1987 the Zambezi River Authority Act was passed simultaneously in the two states of Zambia and Zimbabwe dissolving CAPCO and reconstituting it as Zambezi River Authority (ZRA).

CAPCO was divested of its electricity production and bulk distribution assets which were allocated to the National Electricity undertakings of the two states.
The ZRA was therefore left with the responsibility of the operation and maintenance of Kariba Dam Complex, investigation and development of new dam sites on the Zambezi River and analysing and disseminating hydrological and environmental information pertaining to the Zambezi River and Lake Kariba.