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Zimbabwe in the dark again

One of the top constraints facing the manufacturing industry in Zimbabwe is the lack of reliable electricity supply and the retail sector is busy with an assessment of the impact and cost of disruptions.

June and July have seen a lack of load shedding schedules across Zimbabwe, with no idea of when service will return to normal. 

A lack of coal has been blamed for the Harare, Munyati and Bulawayo thermal power stations being unable to generate power. According to Fullard Gwasira, ZESA group PR manager, winter is always a challenging time, with lack of coal, theft and vandalism being major obstacles faced by the power utility.

However, local news reports state the real reason for the failure to provide adequate power is due to a lack of sufficient capacity and forward planning – no new power stations have been built, despite an anticipated increase in demand.

"Zesa Holdings is in the business of generation and retailing of electricity, and as such, when there is load-shedding, Zesa is actually not transacting. The organization strives to provide its customers with electricity at all times. But with the current power shortages faced by the Southern African region, Zimbabwe is not exempted from the 2007 challenge.

"It is only now that the reality of this shortage is dawning on everyone and Zesa Holdings encourages its customers to go out of their way to save electricity so that the effect can be minimized" Gwasira said

He further stated "The customer is actually not paying more for less. What happens is that when there is load shedding or any power outage for that matter, our electricity meters are not moving, therefore customers pay only for that electricity that they have consumed.

"If you look carefully at your electricity bill, you will realise that there is a fixed charge and the rural electrification and development levies. Whether one had electricity or not, these items have to be paid for."

Gwasira apparently also said that Zimbabwe had the lowest tariffs in the Southern African region.

He continued "Zesa is operating at sub-economic tariffs which make it very difficult for the utility to meet its operating costs and required maintenance. However with economic tariffs, Zesa Holdings is able to raise its own money for maintenance of its infrastructure."

However, industry insiders report that a lack of maintenance and investment in the electricity sector is the real reason for the lack of power, with no new power stations having been built since Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980.