Power cuts set to continue in Zimbabwe

By Staff reporter | 09 Jun 2019 at 18:55hrs
ZIMBABWE's plans to improve the availability of electricity in the country have suffered a setback after South Africa postponed a meeting where the two countries intended to negotiate the resumption of power supply to Harare from Pretoria.

This comes as Zimbabwe is once again experiencing serious power cuts which have affected businesses, hospitals and millions of households due to a punitive load shedding schedule which lasts up to 72 hours at times.

It also comes as Zesa is facing growing problems in generating sufficient power for the country, after water levels declined precipitously at Kariba Dam due to the ravaging drought which was recently experienced in the sub-region.

Under pressure and newly-installed Energy minister, Fortune Chasi, said yesterday that he was supposed to lead a delegation to Pretoria - comprising senior government and Zesa officials - amid reports that Zimbabwe owes SA power utility Eskom about US$33 million.

"We have postponed the trip to South Africa because Eskom told us that they had other commitments at the moment. They have a new minister of Energy (Gwede Mantashe) and I'm sure there is familiarisation taking place there.

"But the fact remains that we urgently need power. The earlier we know our position the better," Chasi told the Daily News on Sunday.

After the meeting with Eskom, government plans to hold similar talks with Mozambican officials over the same issues, with Harare owing Hydro Cahora Basa (HCB) substantial sums as well.

Zimbabwe imports 350MW from Eskom and about 50MW from HCB.

The on-going power deficit comes at a time that demand for electricity in the country has risen from 1 500 megawatts (MW) to 1 700 MW because of the current winter season, which has worsened the power crisis.

This has seen both businesses and individual households facing endless hours without electricity.

With Zimbabwe's largest power station, Kariba, only able to generate a maximum 358 megawatts instead of its full capacity of 1 050MW, the demand for power in the country currently outstrips supply by as much as 600MW.

To make matters worse, Zimbabwe's second biggest power plant, Hwange, is also facing challenges due to old equipment and foreign currency shortages.

Hwange normally supplies 700MW but can only manage a maximum of 500MW at the moment because of archaic equipment.

Until this year, Zesa had last introduced load-shedding in 2015 - which at the time forced the government to rely on imports from Eskom and Hydro Cahora Basa.

During the tenure of ousted former president Robert Mugabe, government awarded contracts to several independent power producers (IPP) to increase local power generation and to make the country self-sufficient by the end of this year with regards to its power needs.

However, and despite many IPPs getting licences, there has been little or no tangible movement towards this noble goal - due to a variety of reasons that range from bureaucratic incompetency to corruption.



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