BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA/MISHMA CHAKANYUKA
BUSINESSES yesterday convened a crisis meeting to map a way forward as the country’s electricity challenges continue weighing down industrial productivity.
The latest spell of power cuts has made a dire situation even more desperate for a sector which is already operating way below capacity because of antiquated machinery, weak consumer demand and lack of access to affordable lines of finance from the global market.
The southern African nation is currently producing less than half its peak demand for power of about 1 800 megawatts due to the low water levels at Kariba Dam and ageing infrastructure at its Hwange thermal power plant.
The power utility has enforced an aggressive load-shedding schedule, which has seen industry and households go for up to 17 hours a day without electricity.
Some ingenious companies are now only operating between 10pm and 4am when electricity is available.
“The power cuts have been devastating for industry. Some companies have suspended operations, while others have opted to operate at night for the few hours power is on. Generators are being used by some, but this makes production very expensive,” Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Henry Ruzvidzo told NewsDay Business yesterday.
“Zesa has indicated that on stage 2 load-shedding, only essential services will be spared. Customers, including those on dedicated lines, have been subjected to load-shedding.”
The country’s telecoms network is also reeling from the acute power shortages, which have seen some operators switch off base stations in the absence of power.
Those that are relying on backup generators are also finding the going tough because of the costly price of diesel when it is available.
Government recently increased the price of fuel to ZWL$5,85 a litre of diesel, but the resource remains scarce.