POWER outages currently plaguing Zimbabwe’s urban areas are set to persist for the foreseeable future as the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority does not have the U
S$7 million needed to service its generators.
The perennial outages have also hit industry, resulting in reduced productivity across all sectors of the economy.
The central bank is allocating only US$125 000 to Zesa due to high demand for hard currency from other sectors.
Since the beginning of the winter season, the country has been experiencing shortages of 500 MW on a daily basis.
The blackouts, which are expected to last until the end of the cold spell, have seen a huge surge in demand for power because of winter wheat irrigation and curing of tobacco.
Obert Nyatanga, Zesa’s general manager for corporate affairs, said their generators were in dire need of maintenance.
“There is need to repair most of the generators. Most of them are continuously breaking down,” he said. “We expect the blackouts to last until the end of this month at the earliest,” he said.
“The repairs do not come cheap as they require foreign currency. We do get some from the Reserve Bank but have to wait like everyone else,” said Nyatanga.
Over the past two months the country has been experiencing serious power blackouts, which have resulted in industry operating at below 50% of capacity.
Zesa generates 68% of national power requirements with 750 MW from Kariba Power Station, 590 MW from Hwange Power Station and 100 MW from internal thermal power stations.
The balance of 650 MW comes from Eskom (300 MW), Hydroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (250 MW) and 100 MW from Snel in the DRC.
Zesa needs US$13 million a month to import power, pay debts and to purchase spare parts.
The power utility has since warned that because of the low volume of water supplies at Kariba Power Station the country could face serious power deficits.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Pattison Sithole said most of his members were being badly affected by unreliable power availability.
Although he could not be drawn into commenting on the overall business lost due to power outages, he said Zimbabwe Sugar Refineries was feeling the impact of the power cuts.
Sithole is group chief executive of ZSR.
“I cannot comment on the level of lost business for the industry as we have not done an assessment,” he said.
“However, at ZSR last week we had two days without power so there was no production.”
Sithole said a number of CZI members had been affected by the unreliable power supplies, which made it virtually impossible to set production targets.
“Right now, we do not have a plan of what to do because of the shortages of electricity,” he said.