ZESA broke, set to increase tariffs as power cuts worsen: Watchdog  

Brenna Matendere

Harare—The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) is battling obsolete equipment and acute financial problems, a situation that will worsen resurgent power cuts, the Harare Residents Trust (HRT) has revealed.

The ZETDC is a subsidiary of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA).

Power supplies significantly improved in the run-up to the August harmonised elections, following an upgrade at the Hwange thermal power station, with output reaching a reported 1 071 megawatts.

Government projected that the development would ease power cuts in both the domestic use and industrial sectors and ultimately turn Zimbabwe into a net exporter.

In August, the then Energy and Power Development minister, Soda Zhemu, announced that the country would no longer experience power outages after the upgrading of units 7 and 8 at Hwange.

The project—which can potentially add an extra 600 MW from the country’s largest coal-fired power plant–was done by Sino Hydro, a Chinese firm that last year struggled to connect power from the two units into the national grid before a private contractor stepped in.

But power cuts have worsened post-election, with most areas now burdened by long outages.

Precious Shumba, the HRT director, told NewsHub that, following the deteriorating power situation, his organisation had engaged the power suppliers and other key players to establish the root cause of the resurging cuts.

Shumba also indicated that ZETDC was experiencing acute financial problems, hence its inability to replace or repair the outdated equipment.

As a result, he said, Zimbabweans must brace for electricity tariff hikes as ZETDC looks for means to remain afloat.

“As residents, we have met with the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe and ZETDC over power generation and distribution. One thing is clear. ZETDC is raising concerns about the obsolete equipment electricity generation and distribution infrastructure which they are struggling to maintain and repair.

“They cited a shortage of funds and, therefore, have submitted an application for the authority to increase electricity charges by two cents per kilowatt hour, raising the cost from USc10.63 to about USc12.63 up to USc13.28 kw/h,” said Shumba.

There is widespread vandalism and theft of transformers, a trend that has made it even more difficult for ZETDC to adequately roll out power to homes, the retail sector and industry.

Consumers suspect that ZESA officials are masterminding the transformer thefts.

Shumba projected that power cuts would worsen as the rain season sets.

“The erratic power supplies are set to worsen due to the upcoming rain season. Already, there have been numerous reports of power outages caused by heavy winds and lightning. But then, even before that, ZETDC was struggling to provide electricity to its customers,” he added.

The off-season rains that are falling at the moment have contributed to the erratic power supplies, NewsHub established.

In areas like Marlborough and Goodhope in Harare, the windy rains caused power poles and trees to collapse, disrupting power transmission.

The ZETDC electricians were observed working overnight to fix the damage, with little joy as supplies constantly came on and off.

Shumba urged the power distributor to be more transparent so as to build trust with consumers.

“Communication must be improved between the ZETDC and residents if vandalism is to be successfully overcome. Residents are also urged to do everything humanely possible within their communities to secure their electricity infrastructure in collaboration with ZETDC,” he said.

In a public statement issued on 17 October, ZETDC apologised for the ongoing power cuts and attributed them to an increase in faults due to the rains.

“Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) wishes to apologise to its valued customers countrywide for power outages experienced in some parts of the country. The increased number of faults is due to inclement weather.

“Our teams are working round the clock to ensure full restoration of service in the affected areas,” reads part of the statement.

The power cuts increased in frequency well before the current rains, though.


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