HARARE: Ordinary Zimbabweans are feeling the pinch of rolling power cuts being experienced throughout the country as some of them fail to get on with their daily chores, thus affecting their sources of income and general well-being.
The country has been experiencing severe load shedding of late with consumers going for at least 16 hours without power, with power utility the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) announcing at the weekend power disruptions as a result of curtailed generation and limited imports.
Generally, ZETDC gives a timeframe on when “normal supplies” would be restored, but this time the notice was open ended.
Motor vehicle body repairer Reuben Chungu from Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, said the power cuts were affecting his business to a great extent as he was being forced to use a generator to power his gadgets.
“We have resorted to using a generator, but this is not sustainable as the cost of running it is very high. The price of diesel is too high and we may have to pass on the extra costs to our clients,” he said.
Rangarirai Nengedze, another Harare resident who works at a hammer mill in the northwestern part of the city, said the situation had become unbearable of late and they had resolved to work overnight to clear stacks of maize that needed to be milled.
“Until recently we would work during the day as power was usually available. But since the weekend, the situation has become worse and supplies are only restored at night before we are switched off early in the morning,” he said. “People who want to have their maize milled now leave it behind with us and we do it for them in the middle of the night, otherwise they won’t have food at home.”
Most Zimbabweans take maize meal as their staple food and will try as much as possible to have it in their homes.
A resident of the Mabelreign suburb said the power shortages were also affecting his chicken business.
“I have to prepare the right mix for my birds using certain quantities of feeds which include crushed maize, but I am having problems doing this because the millers are now working abnormal hours,” said the resident who declined to be named.
Apart from disturbing informal workers like those in the welding and fabrication businesses, lack of electricity also means that some people fail to get water from their boreholes and have no internet.
School children who rely on the internet for learning are also having difficult times.
Many people are now using liquid petroleum gas for heating and cooking as an alternative to electricity, but there is nothing they can do about their television sets and other forms of entertainment that require power.
People who can afford are installing solar backups at their homes and business premises, but the high costs remain prohibitive to many.
Most of the electricity consumed in the country comes from thermal power stations in Hwange, Harare, Bulawayo and Munyati and is anchored by the Kariba South Hydro Power Station on the Zambezi River.
More power is imported from neighboring countries such as Zambia, South Africa and Mozambique, but financial constraints curtail the local power utility from importing the desired amount.
Ordinarily, the country needs about 2,200 MW at peak but is currently generating much less.
The Zimbabwe Power Company, a sister company of ZETDC under ZESA Holdings, is currently upgrading its major thermal power station, Hwange in northwest Zimbabwe, by installing two generators that will produce a combined 600 MW.
The first unit is expected to come online in November, thus bringing some relief to weary consumers.
Chinese firm Sinohydro is doing the refurbishment.
Zimbabwe and Zambia are also working on the 2,400 MW Batoka Gorge hydro-electric power plant which is also on the Zambezi River, while several independent power producers were awarded licenses to develop plants that will feed into the national grid