via Power outages a warning: Residents Report by Victoria Mtomba/Wonai Masvingise
Residents yesterday said the ongoing power outages being experienced in most parts of the country are a “warning” by Zesa of the kind of darkness the country could face if debts are cancelled.
The residents said the massive power cuts should be viewed as the consequences of recent utterances by Vice-President Joice Mujuru that Zanu PF wants outstanding debts cancelled.
Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba attributed the increased power outages to Mujuru’s recent utterances that all electricity debts owed by domestic users would be cancelled.
“We are attributing these power outages to the comments made by Vice-President Joice Mujuru that electricity bills that had accrued would be cancelled. We do not know as yet the extent of the impact of the Vice-President’s statement, but we suspect that this is linked,” he said.
Of late, the country has been experiencing power outages ranging from eight to 15 hours, with some areas going without power for 24 hours. This has raised speculation that the development is connected to the recently held harmonised elections that Zanu PF rivals allege were rigged.
“The implication might be that following the utterances by Mai Mujuru, Zesa is trying to send a message of the kind of darkness the country could face if debts are cancelled. This represents just a warning phase by Zesa that if government cuts off debts it could affect electricity imports,” Shumba said.
Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma on Tuesday accused politicians pushing for the scrapping of electricity debts of seeking to benefit personally while hiding behind poor citizens.
“They can say things at rallies, but sometimes those things must not be taken seriously,” said Mangoma, adding yesterday that he was unaware of what sparked the latest power cuts since he was no longer the responsible minister.
A report by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy last year revealed that several government ministers and officials owed thousands of dollars in unpaid electricity bills accrued at their private farms and homes.
Zesa is owed more than $400 million by individuals and government departments.
Last month, Local Government minister Ignatious Chombo ordered local authorities to scrap water bills and urged Zesa and Zinwa to follow suit.
Zesa Holdings chief executive officer Josh Chifamba yesterday, however, said the power cuts were a result of the decline in imports from neighbouring countries and maintenance work at Hwange Power Station.
Chifamba said the country had not experienced serious power interruption in the six weeks before the latest outages as it was receiving about 400 megawatts of power from Mozambique’s Hydro Cahora Bassa (HCB), while Hwange was working at full throttle producing 700 megawatts.
“After the elections we experienced problems. We had Hwange playing up and it started to produce 200 megawatts and HCB reduced exports to us as it was carrying out mantainanace at Songo. We expect the mantainanace to be complete today (yesterday). The interruption has nothing to do with elections,” Chifamba said.
Sources told NewsDay that the country was receiving as little as 50 megawatts of power from Mozambique.
According to the Zesa website, load-shedding status for the country yesterday was classified as moderate and there were no imports.
The country’s power generation statistics showed that as of yesterday, only 1 310 megawatts were available against a demand of 2 000 megawatts.
Commercial Farmers’ Union president Charles Taffs said the load-shedding had affected winter wheat production although less wheat had been planted this year due to lack of funding for the agricultural sector.