FOR the past few weeks Zimbabweans have been going for extended hours without electricity after Zesa announced it would be conducting mantainance work at power stations for the next four months.
The maintenance works that have led to more frequent power outages began on September 2 and will end on February 4.
Power outages, according to Zesa, would be alleviated throughelectricity imports from neighbouring Mozambique, but it is clear the power utility is struggling because recently it was arm-twisted into reducing debts owed by domestic consumers.
On Sunday we reported that the city fire brigade had recorded an upsurge in houses that have been burnt in Bulawayo as a result of electricity surges directly linked to load-shedding by Zesa.
Several residents have lost property worth thousands of dollars due to fire caused by power surges. Businesspeople are also recording losses daily due to power outages and it is unreasonable for Zesa to expect them to endure this for the next four months.
However, the real tragedy was reported yesterday about the situation at Gwanda Hospital, which serves as the Matabeleland South provincial referral centre.
According to the story we published, Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Matabeleland South Abedinico Ncube was told during a tour of the health institution that the hospital faces operational problems because of serious power cuts affecting the town.
Matabeleland South provincial medical director William Busumani told Ncube the hospital is forced to cut power off in some sections of the facility when using the generator to fully cater for the most critical sections such as the maternity wing and theatre.
This is done to conserve fuel because the generator guzzles 200 litres and the government-run hospital simply can’t afford to run the generator due to the extended power cuts.
Busumani revealed that patients’ blankets and sheets have gone for weeks without being washed as washing machines were no longer in use due to load-shedding.
The situation at Gwanda Hospital could just be a tip of the iceberg and the state of rural health centres could certainly be worse.
Zesa cannot pretend that it is still business as usual because these power cuts are now a matter of life and death.
A solution is needed and should be found very soon. Those who advocated for the scrapping of debts have to be seen proffering solutions to this mess because people’s lives are seriously at stake.