BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
ZESA Holdings executive chairperson Sydney Gata has bemoaned massive brain drain at the power utility, saying its engineers were literally now running South Africa’s Electricity Supply Commission (Eskom).
He told editors and journalists during a tour of Zesa’s Hwange hydropower plant on Monday that the massive exodus of engineers had paralysed operations at the country’s power utility, resulting in power cuts.
Gata said hundreds of ex-Zesa engineers relocated to the diaspora, adding that it was imperative to lure them back to ensure the company operates at optimum capacity.
“This institution, Zesa, I am not exaggerating, is running certain institutions in this world. There are officially 450 ex-Zesa staff now working at Eskom alone,” Gata said.
“The National Electricity Transmission Grid (South Africa) which is the equivalent of ZETDC [Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company] has 72 graduate professional engineers, all ex-Zesa employees.
“There is even a shift during their operations at their national control centre, which they call Zim shift because I understand six of the eight engineers there are ex-Zesa employees. In Australia, one provincial authority has 65 ex-Zesa engineers.”
A number of other government-run agencies are also beset with staff exodus as civil servants quit jobs for greener pastures.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of ex-Zesa engineers all over the world. This is not good because this capacity, we need it here, we are only 56% electrified.
“We need the capacity back home. We have to bring back all those who left the country for the diaspora in order to develop our country to the extent we deserve as Zimbabweans,” Gata said, adding that he spent the better part of his early days in office investing in staff morale and halting the brain drain.
Gata last month hired back five engineers on a consultancy basis.
“There were over 600 disputes between workers and management. So the whole of the first year for me was devoted to dealing with staff morale. I came here during COVID-19 about 13 times because by then, you could not call a meeting and discuss anything. There were disputes going back to 2012. You could not ask people to be devoted to Zesa during most of that time,” he said.
“As a result, we reduced load-shedding drastically. There was not a single dollar invested in that. We invested in staff morale by engaging them, so that one is a plus for us.”
Zimbabwe faces electricity outages running into several hours per day mainly attributed to lack of capacity to generate enough power owing to, among others, ageing equipment.