By Darlington Gatsi
ON a Monday afternoon, Freddy Shumba (39), is staring at a grim prospect of clocking his hours without serving a client in his sewing business due to power outages.
On a normal day with electricity available at his disposal, Shumba is inundated with clients, who clamour for his services, meaning more income for him and his family.
But the countrywide power outages have dealt Shumba a huge blow as he goes for a whole day without generating meaningful income for his family of six.
Shumba is forced to rethink his business working hours and confine to the hours when electricity will be available, that is at night.
“The issue of load shedding has been a thorn for my business. With electricity going for long hours the business has been hit hard as you can see a day is about to go down without cashing in even a dollar.
“I think a way forward for me right now is to work in the evening because right now it is not viable due to the power cuts,” said Shumba.
Zimbabwe has been experiencing power cuts which have been attributed by the authorities to breakdown of generating units at Hwange power station.
Some areas in Harare go for more than 12 hours without electricity.
Power outages in the country have been further compounded by a similar load shedding in neighbouring South Africa.
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Zimbabwe imports power from South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique to augment its generation capacity from Kariba Hydro power and Hwange.
Shumba’s predicament is also shared by a phone repair shop owner operating in Harare’s surburb of Glen View, who identified himself as Gabriel Gabriel, who has lamented the black outs and their effects on his business.
“The rate at which the power cuts are occurring is too much. In our trade we need electricity. If there is no electricity there is no back up plan because we ate small business. If there is no electricity it is tough because we live from hand to mouth,” said Gabriel.
Shumba and Gabriel’s woes are echoed by small business owners who mainly depend on electricity for their operations.
With a high rate of unemployment, small businesses have become a source of employment and of living to the majority of Zimbabweans.
SMEs contribute above 50 percent to the gross domestic product of the country further steering an economy that is in the throes of instability.
Renowned economist, Vince Musewe said for a sector being dogged by inflation and currency challenges, SMEs will reel under the power challenges.
“Load shedding is bad for any economy. Zimbabwe small businesses already faced a myriad of challenges like currency instability inflation and tight demand. Add load shedding to that it makes life very difficult because you are unable to be productive.
“This increases the cost of doing business cause you cannot fire your workers when you still are faced with costs at month end without having produced. The whole energy architecture needs to shift towards off grid solutions for businesses,” said Musewe.
Shumba is keeping his fingers crossed that a long lasting solution will be found to the electricity challenges.
“We just hope ZESA will have mercy on us in the coming days. Our business can not stomach it anymore,” he said.