12 June 2014

Zimbabwe: Zesa, We Don't Make Winter!


Power utility ZESA has warned of an increase in load-shedding, particularly in residential areas. Some residential suburbs in the eastern parts of Harare such as Manday Park, Ruwa, Chadcombe, Epworth, Queensdale and Msasa Park, should expect power outages of up to 16 hours daily.

This is completely unacceptable.

It is no news for ZESA to tell us about increased consumption in winter. Zimbabweans don't create seasons and they expect ZESA to do its part in anticipation of winter.

The issue of power generation capacity is apparently not getting the urgency it deserves.

Given the unfavourable economic environment, all Zimbabweans are looking forward to some happy diversion by watching the 2014 FIFA Soccer World Cup which begins in Brazil today.

Surely, ZESA does expect everyone to suddenly have extra money to buy a generator. This is a violation of the rights of citizens to entertainment of their choice.

But the situation is apparently worse.

There is no need for Zesa to invent the excuse that there will be an increase in load-shedding in residential areas because more power is being diverted to winter wheat farming.

The authority has never provided sufficient energy to this sector, World Cup or none. It is a perennial deficit area every season, and the country has to pay the price through expensive imports of wheat to cover the shortfall.

Here is what the authority had to say yesterday; maximum demand for power this winter had reached 1 800mw.

This is against generating capacity of between 1 350mw and 1 400mw. "To this end," so we are assured, "ZESA has put in place measures to boost power generation and reduce consumption to minimise load-shedding."

How does ZESA hope to "reduce consumption" of power it is unable to supply? Isn't that why it's warning of a spike in load-shedding?

Industry has also raised its concerns.

Against already depressed industrial capacity utilisation, Zesa is descending on the sector with a sledge hammer.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Charles Msipa has said ZESA should consult on what should be considered strategic areas which can be spared from load-shedding.

He pointed out that industry and manufacturing were key export sectors and should be treated as priority areas.

We agree.

But even more, we believe ZESA should be working closely with industry on how to get more private investors involved in power generation.

We are left wondering how ZESA fails to meet current national power demand when industrial capacity utilisation is reportedly just above 30 percent.

How does industry get to 100 percent productivity? Can it support growth?

We are raising these questions not because we have the answers, but because ZESA should have them. It is their job.

You cannot run a modern economy without sufficient power and ZESA is sleeping on the job. Its lethargic approach to the issue of power undermines efforts to revive the economy.

The success of economic recovery under Zim-Asset demands reliable, predictable and sufficient power supply.

This view has been expressed by the mining and farming sectors as well and should, therefore, not be treated as a seasonal phenomenon only visiting us in winter.

ZESA should stop repeating the old story about the need for consumers to use power sparingly as if there was ever enough to be abused.

Consumers have a legitimate right to expect an improvement and predictability in electricity supplies.

Winter or not, ZESA's service is simply bad.

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