Power crisis deepens

HARARE - Zimbabwe has lurched into one of its worst power crisis in decades, according to senior government officials.
The failure by the government to approve capital expenditure programmes in electricity generation is now evident, with the State power utility announcing this week an extended load shedding schedule expected to run until December.

Residents of Zimbabwe’s poor ghettos have lived with power outages, they have been accustomed to cuts ever since electricity was introduced in the townships. However, the predominantly middle-class suburbs are also now being affected.

Zesa spokesperson, Fullard Gwasira, said Kariba was being put on planned maintenance, but sources say the plant is plagued with shortages of cash and spares; and poor working conditions.

“The maintenance work is expected to run up until before Christmas. Our internal supply will be depressed during the period and, obviously, load-shedding will increase outside the normal schedule,” he said.

This week one of the subsidiaries of the State utility, the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company fired the unit’s managing director, Ernest Muchayi, after failing to account for a US$25 000 loan he allegedly gave himself and top managers

Recently, pressure group WOZA dragged an angry crowd to march in the city centre against the power cuts, and waved placards outside ZESA offices in Samora Machel Avenue. Others have called on the embattled electricity minister to quit.

Blackouts necessary

Officials say the blackouts are necessary to protect the national grid from collapse as a result of higher-than-usual consumption because of winter.

ZESA has sought to reassure the public with a flurry of announcements about bolstering power capacity in coming months, while urging consumers to reduce waste.

Elsewhere, according to a Canadian mining firm, as economies in Zimbabwe and other countries in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) start to recover, further power shortages will inevitably follow.

In an analysis of the country and region’s power generation capacity, Caledonia’s chief executive and president, Stefan Hayden, said reductions in steel and ferrochrome production had meant less drain on the country’s power supplies.

“This situation is already reversing and it is expected that the region will once again begin to run short of electricity within the next six months or so,” said Hayden.

Hayden said the country urgently needed to construct large-scale, coal- fired power stations. However, these take eight to 10 years to build and they are extremely expensive.

Proposals for private-public partnerships had been suggested, but Hayden said such projects took even longer to get off the ground than government-sponsored projects due to “ideological inertia, vested interests, and contractual complexities”.

Post published in: Zimbabwe News

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