HomeCommentEditor's Memo: Cost Of Emergencies And Old Equipment

Editor’s Memo: Cost Of Emergencies And Old Equipment

WE commiserate with the families of those who perished when part of a building housing a well-known watering hole collapsed last Thursday night in central Harare.


Results of the initial probe into the accident have revealed that there were too many people on the shoddily constructed landing which gave in to the weight of the revellers.

On Thursday night emergency services were scrambled to attend to the emergency. The fire brigade pulled out the dead and the injured from the debris while ambulances rushed the injured to hospital. There were policemen and a large throng of people who came to watch the grim spectacle. The pilgrimage to the site continued for the greater part of the weekend. Many man-hours were lost in the process.

This week engineers and officials from the City of Harare were probing the cause of the accident as the injured were recuperating in hospitals while two of the dead were buried at their rural homes. I hope the probe will help answer a number of questions regarding the operations of the collapsed pub. The investigators will hopefully tell the nation who authorised the construction of the landing and when building inspectors last visited the place. Was this a properly licensed operation? Was someone allowed to cut corners and who should be charged with crimes which resulted in the loss of life? There is a cost to all this.

Tragedies like the collapse of the pub always come at a huge cost whose corrosive impact will continue to be felt well after the tragic incident. And often huge resources employed to rescue a situation are not commensurate with results achieved.

Last week’s accident, albeit freakish, is instructive about the state of this economy. The tragedy that has befallen this nation as a direct result of years of misrule, neglect and corruption is an expensive enterprise. We have committed huge resources in rescue and salvage operations and in nursing the comatose economy. We have employed large amounts of money and formed many committees, taskforces and operations to deal with the emergency which has manifested itself in the form hyperinflation, low productivity in industry and on the land, and a breakdown in infrastructure. The Reserve Bank has pumped millions of dollars in foreign currency into farming and in industry but there has been very little to show for the investment. The monies have gone into saving businesses from closing and have kept farmers away from the fields. The need to survive has superseded any pretence of growth.

We have as a country which has reached the stage where there appears to be counter forces conspiring to deflect all efforts to put right the ills afflicting us. Our negative collective conscience is a major driver of this inertia. We have become accustomed to the failure around us because we are “hanging in there” or are busy trying to survive using archaic means.

We are busy investing more resources to cope with the failure and we are content to jostle for space in the dungeon of mediocrity. Industrialists have stopped complaining about 12 to 20-hour daily power cuts. Generators have come in handy. Residents of Hatfield, Msasa Park, Mabelreign and Greendale have taken to digging shallow wells to get water because they are convinced that Zinwa is beyond redemption. Forests and woodlots adjacent to urban areas have virtually disappeared as residents seek alternative energy sources. The water crisis has increased incidents of illness thereby overstretching the already not-so-healthy public health service. The cost of the emergency is staggering.

At Zesa even capital injection is no longer enough to turn things around. The Zesa website –– which appears stuck in a groove –– was this week still carrying a statement announcing the refurbishment of Hwange Power Station through a US$40 million loan from Namibia. The statement was issued last December!

It said Hwange Power Station, with a capacity to produce 750MW had been experiencing technical hitches due to AGEING (my emphasis) equipment that resulted in persistent system breakdowns hence the excessive load-shedding that has become cause for concern to electricity consumers.

Energy minister Mike Nyambuya also announced there was a recapitalisation plan for the Hwange Colliery Company Ltd to augment efforts to sustain the power supply system.

Seven months later and with so much money sunk in the power station, we still have power cuts because there are technical problems at Hwange Colliery which is also ageing. The distribution infrastructure, including cables and transformers, is also ageing. There is therefore no guarantee that refurbishing aged Hwange would bring power to the people.

This is another crisis on our hands. There is a huge cost that comes with keeping old equipment and infrastructure working. As a nation, this has kept us engaged in multiple collapses, breakdowns and accidents. Old equipment cannot provide for growth.

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