Zesa speaks on power cuts

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POWER outages being experienced in most parts of the country since the beginning of the week have been blamed on a decline in imports from neighbouring countries and maintenance work at Hwange Power Station.

Report By Victoria Mtomba/WONAI Masvingise

Zesa Holdings chief executive officer Josh Chifamba yesterday said the country had not experienced serious power interruption in the six weeks before the latest outages as it was receiving about 400 megawatts (MW) of power from Mozambique’s Hydro Cahora Bassa (HCB) and Hwange was working at full throttle producing 700MW.

“After the elections we experienced problems. We had Hwange playing up and started to produce 200MW and HCB reduced exports to us as it was carrying our maintenance at Songo. We expect the maintenance to be complete today (yesterday). The interruption has nothing to do with elections.”

Sources said the country was receiving as little as 50MW of power from Mozambique.

Of late, consumers across the country have been experiencing power cuts ranging from eight to 15 hours with some areas going without power for 24 hours, raising questions on whether the power outages were related to the recently held harmonised elections.

According to the Zesa website, load-shedding status for the country yesterday was classified as moderate and there were no imports.

The country’s power generation statistics showed that as of yesterday, only 1 310MW were available against a demand of
2 000MW. The Commercial Farmers’ Union president Charles Taffs said the load-shedding had affected winter wheat production although less wheat had been planted this year due to lack of funding of the agricultural sector.

Harare Residents’ Trust director Precious Shumba attributed the increased power outages to Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s recent utterances that all electricity debts owed by domestic users would be cancelled.

“We are attributing these power outages to the comments made by Vice-President Joice Mujuru that electricity bills that had accrued would be cancelled. We don’t know as yet the extent of the impact of the Vice-President’s statement, but we suspect that this is linked,” he said.

“The implication might be that following the utterances by Mai Mujuru, Zesa is trying to send a message of the kind of darkness the country could face if debts are cancelled. This represents just a warning phase by Zesa that if the government cuts off debts it could affect electricity imports.”

Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma on Tuesday accused politicians of pushing for the scrapping of electricity debts for personal benefit.

“They can say things at rallies, but sometimes those things must not be taken seriously,” said Mangoma, adding that he was unaware of what sparked the latest power cuts since he was no longer the responsible minister.

Zesa is owed more than $400 million by individuals and government departments.

Last month, Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo ordered local authorities to scrap water bills and urged Zesa and Zimbabwe National Water Authority to follow suit.