With South Africa having already experienced power cuts to residential consumers (industrial consumers have been absorbing the burden for some time) twice during the winter of 2014, neighbour Zimbabwe is in a far worse situation.

Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) has told Zimbabweans to brace for more electricity blackouts this winter with the power utility warning that supplies would be depressed for two months. Homes and businesses will endure rolling blackouts for between eight and 24 hours in a move that will further plunge the industrial capacity of the southern African country’s already fragile economy.

The hardest hit would be soccer lovers as the announcement came barely a day before kick-off of the much awaited FIFA 2014 Soccer World Cup being held in Brazil. According to Zesa, the country’s maximum electricity demand reaches 1,800 MW in winter, against generating capacity of between 1,350 MW and 1,400 MW

Zesa says, “Consumers are being called upon to play their part in reducing demand by using the available power sparingly. All non-essential loads and appliances should be switched off at all times. Non-essential lights and office equipment should be switched off overnight. It should be noted that the published schedules should be treated as a guide since power supply and demand are dynamic.”

The load shedding, however, will not be as severe on referral hospitals, water and sewer installations, security establishments, airports and broadcasting stations. The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) says the manufacturing capacity utilisation – a measure of the extent of factories’ use of their installed productive potential – is expected to fall by almost ten percentage points to around 30% in 2014. CZI president Charles Msipa says load-shedding would disrupt efforts to revive capacity utilisation. “While we understand that Zesa has a difficult task in balancing demand and power generation they should also put at the forefront the industry and manufacturing sector.”

Zimbabwe’s electricity shortages have never been resolved since 1999 when the first incidences of load shedding were introduced.

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