26 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Massive Power Outage Hits Bulawayo

Photo: Antony Kaminju/IRIN
File Photo:Business by candlelight in Harare as blackouts become order of the day.

One of the worst blackouts to hit Bulawayo this year left most of the city without power for more than 20 hours from Sunday evening to Monday afternoon.

The Central Business District, as well as most the eastern and western suburbs were all affected. It is unclear why the supply was so severely interrupted but reports say torrential rains that fell in the city over the weekend may have caused the blackout.

Our correspondent, Lionel Saungweme, told us the power cut happened at around 6pm on Sunday and power was restored to some areas by 2pm on Monday.

Power cuts are now a common occurrence in Bulawayo because of a fundamental shortage of power and an ageing grid. The chaos caused by such cuts has led to protests against the power utility company, ZESA.

'The blackouts are becoming more frequent typically because of government's lack of investment in the energy infrastructures, and which are also prone to serious weather. This latest power cut completely shut down production at companies and critical infrastructures such as telecommunication networks, financial services, water supplies and hospitals,' Saungweme said.

He said authorities were working to restore service to some areas that still had no power, adding that there are fears the power blackouts will become more frequent, owing to the lack of incentives to invest in national grid infrastructure.

Saungweme said the widespread power outages seriously disrupted business and industrial activities which adversely affected productivity.

He said, 'It also caused disruptions and inconveniences to residents. In addition, such failure to provide a reliable service clearly has negative consequences for business confidence of both domestic and foreign investors, which in turn impacts on the country's economic growth targets.'

Patson Mbiriri, the secretary for energy and power development, told an annual congress of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries in July this year that energy-starved Zimbabwe will suffer longer and more frequent power shortages for the next 10 years.

Zimbabwe needs about 2 200MW of electricity at peak consumption, but generates just below 1 300MW while relying on imports to fill the gap. Mbiriri said the country will only be able to generate enough power for domestic and industrial power by 2022.

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