IT can only get worse, is what could be echoing in the minds of many after it was reported this week that Lake Kariba has water volumes enough to generate electricity for just over five months.
Candid Comment Bernard Mpofu
Thereafter, Zimbabwe, which has over the last decade been experiencing rolling power cuts, could plunge into darkness. Notwithstanding ongoing expansion work at Kariba Power Station, a huge debt overhang and limited fiscal space has made any prospects of financing any capital-intensive energy project a pipedream for government.
Optimists would argue that this dire situation resulted from the El Nino-induced phenomenon. But, a recap of yesteryear events tells a different story.
Kariba, the largest man-made lake in the world traditionally used to meet this growing energy demand.
But this changed in 2015 when Zambia and Zimbabwe let the turbines in full motion despite the low water levels.
Kariba Power Station general manager, Kenneth Maswera last Friday said water levels at the lake were now at 477,15 metres which is 1,65m above the minimum power generation threshold. He said these were the lowest levels recorded since the 1992 drought. The levels, he added were enough to generate power for only 165 days.
Experts say lack of proper planning and poor management of the Kariba Dam, has resulted in the current power cuts as both Zambia’s power utility and the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, through its subsidiary Zimbabwe Power Company, burst their water usage ceiling by huge volumes resulting in an unprecedented decline of water levels in the dam.
From this, sceptics can only conclude that poor statecraft as reflected by failure to implement ambitious development plans — some of which have been jettisoned to historical annals — now epitomises President Robert Mugabe’s administration.
Rewind: At Independence in 1980, Zimbabwe was the most industrialised country in Sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa and its currency was not only stronger than the South African rand, but also the United States dollar.
Ordinarily, any forward-looking government would have rolled out more energy projects in anticipation of a growing population and accelerated industrialisation. That was not the case.
However, Zimbabwe has undergone serious regression since 2000, through a period of runaway and an attendant economic meltdown.
In 1980, Zimbabwe was only second to South Africa in the region in terms of economic development and size of budget. Now, after extended periods of maladministration, its budget is smaller than that of all its neighbours — Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique and, of course, South Africa.
Incompetence, corruption and the absence of a national vision has and will continue to drag Zimbabwe to the 14th Century as Mugabe and his apparatchiks continue to decimate the economy.
Politicians are now fixated on plots and counterplots to succeed Mugabe at a time the economy is in mire. Cry the beloved country!