AN entire nation groping in the dark is no longer just a metaphorical expression found in works of fiction, but the description of objective reality in today’s Zimbabwe.
Access to affordable and reliable electricity is one of the markers of socio-economic modernity. Steam power, which came before electricity, changed the planet in many profound ways. However, some of the world’s leading scientists argue that electricity is the greatest invention in the history of mankind.
Industry, innovation, transportation, telecommunications, media, domestic lighting, computer science, and virtually each and every aspect of contemporary life have all depended immensely on the magic of electricity. A country that cannot guarantee access to electricity in this day and age is regressing in a significant way. Ongoing power outages, lasting up to 18 hours daily, are irrefutable evidence of gross economic mismanagement, incompetence and corruption.
The power cuts are symptomatic of a leadership that lost its vision a long time ago and is now groping in the dark. Blackouts are disrupting business operations, resulting in losses running into millions of dollars with some companies on the brink of closure in stark contrast to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s mantra that the country is “open for business”. The severe power cuts are a result of a number of factors, which include foreign currency shortages, a breakdown of equipment, debt and severe reduction of water levels at Kariba Power Station. The failure by Zesa Holdings to pay what it owes South African power utility Eskom and Mozambican power entity and Hidroeléctrica de Cahora Bassa has resulted in the two state entities drastically cutting power exports to Zimbabwe.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Henry Ruzvidzo says the power cuts have crippled industry. Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Denford Mutashu painted a grim picture of the state of the retail sector as a result of the power cuts. Companies such as Waverley Blankets based in Graniteside, Harare, are contemplating closure. Some companies are spending up to ZW$100 000 monthly on diesel for generators as the crisis worsens. The farming sector has not been spared by the impact of load shedding caused by these prolonged power cuts, Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union executive director Paul Zakaria revealed. Irrigation projects have been disrupted. The mining sector has also borne the brunt of the nationwide power deficit with production statistics for the first four months of 2019 showing that all key minerals recorded output declines of not less than 10% compared to the same period in 2018 due to power outages. As a result of the dire state of affairs, government has directed that the mining sector and hotels in Victoria Falls pay their Zesa bills in foreign currency despite phasing out the multi-currency regime last month through Statutory Instrument 142 of 2019.
Economist Prosper Chitambara warned that the current power outages will deter investment which the country desperately needs.
The power crisis is a national emergency. It requires visionary leadership, astute planning, and decisive intervention. This, after all, is a matter of national survival.