BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

SOUTHERN Africa focussed oil and gas exploration outfit Invictus Energy halted trading on the Australia Stock Exchange (ASX) yesterday, a week after the bourse queried a sudden surge in demand for its shares.

The firm, which has been scouring for oil in Zimbabwe’s Muzarabani district, had reported earlier that it could potentially be sitting on Africa’s largest onshore reserves, days before bulls stampeded on its stock and sparking off jitters within ASX bosses.

But hours after the ASX issued the directive for Invictus to suspend trading for a week, the The Markets Herald in Australia reported that the firm could be closer to striking a capitalisation deal. The Markets Herald did not say which investors were likely to inject capital to help the firm sink its first wells around September.

But a Zimbabwean fund, Mangwana Capital, had recently shown significant interest in the project. On Monday, ASX adviser for listings compliance, Daniel Nicholson, said Invictus would be placed in trading halt at the request of its directors.

“Unless ASX decides otherwise, the securities will remain in trading halt until the earlier of the commencement of normal trading on Wednesday March 24, 2021 or when the announcement is released to the market,” Nicholson said.

Yesterday’s developments followed weeks of high activity at Invictus, as shares significantly jumped on March 10, prompting regulators to quiz the outfit. Invictus said it was not aware of any developments that had triggered the bull run except for disclosures that had already been made to regulators regarding ongoing discussions with the government about a petroleum exploration development and production agreement.

In its financial statement for the half year ended December 31, 2020 released recently, Invictus estimated that it could be sitting on Africa’s biggest onshore find. No one knows exactly what lies beneath the earth’s crust at the vast oil/gas fields at the heart of picturesque jungles at the confluence of two of southern Africa’s resource-rich economies — Zimbabwe, which is further offshore from the Indian Ocean, and Mozambique, which traverses large swaths of the sea’s shoreline.

Exploration, as Invitus said in its financial results for the half year ended December 31, 2020, was still ongoing.

But Zimbabwe together with the firm’s Australian shareholders may not be far from knowing what treasure is exactly lurking under the chest of Muzarabani’s treasured forests.

The good news is if this is the largest energy resource in Africa, then economically-troubled Zimbabwe finds herself at the cusp of economic recovery, gross domestic product growth and an end to terrifying poverty. But that is if Harare’s affluent politicians and their cronies won’t resort to hiding the riches to themselves and those that sit close to the isles of power.

For now, it looks like the oil/gas find is set to make a huge impact.

“(Invictus is) progressing the development of the Cabora Bassa project in Zimbabwe that encompasses the Muzarabani prospect, a multi-TCF conventional gas-condensate target which is potentially the largest, undrilled seismically defined structure onshore Africa,” the firm said.

“The prospect is defined by a robust dataset acquired by Mobil in the early 1990s that includes seismic, gravity, aeromagnetic and geochemical data,” it said.