Power cuts: No Joy for Citizens as Government Mulls Tariff Hike

The country’s power utility, ZESA is grappling with a recession in water supply for power generation at Kariba Dam and is struggling to service debts to foreign suppliers due to the acute shortage of foreign currency.

The power utility generates about 1 000 megawatts (MW) but needs about 1 700MW hence to cover for the short falls ZESA imports from other regional power utilities. ZESA has not been getting adequate supplies because it has been struggling to service debt to regional suppliers due to the acute shortage of foreign currency.

Electricity generation at the country’s power stations has dropped to 984 megawatts against a daily demand of 2000MW, resulting in increased load shedding and unscheduled power supply disruptions countrywide.

Most suburbs parts of the country are going for almost 24 hours without power, forcing citizens to resort to alternative energy sources such as solar, LP gas and wood as well as generators.

Industries have also been badly hit by the power cuts, leading to lost production time and reduced capacity utilisation, but the government seems to be clueless on how to resolve the issue.

However, Government thinks increasing tariffs is part of the solution. Nick Mangwana the Permanent Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, took to his twitter account saying that citizens should face reality and find a way out of the mess though it might be expensive, advocating for ZESA tariffs to be increased.

 “There is a time when the nation has to confront the reality that to attract a lot investment into our energy sector we have to increase tariffs. The current rates don not make business sense for private capital. Isn’t it better to have an expensive utility than none at all,” reads his tweet.

One of Mangwana’s followers argued that increasing ZESA tariffs was the way to go.

“That is the truth, and Zesa refuses to pay back in USD so who will invest in USD to get back Bond (sic)? With the way the currency volatility and madness is going investors naturally avoid Zimbabwe. They can invest elsewhere like Zambia or Namibia with way less hassles,” said Denver Ncube.

The question remains that is the government finally increasing ZESA tarrifs? However, in  a separate report carried out by Business Times ZESA owes Eskom of South Africa and Hydro Cahora Bassa (HCB) about US$83 million and US$41,5 million respectively.

The power utility is also owed about RTGS$1, 2 billion by local consumers. Fortune Chasi, Energy and Power Development Minister argued that there was need to deal with the issue of the ZESA debt, local and foreign. He also said that the Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube, said about RTGS$20 million was going to be paid to ZESA.

Nevertheless, in the scheme of things, it is a drop in the ocean. He added that he could not give a timeline as to when payment would be made to foreign suppliers but talks were underway and it was a very important matter and urgent one for government. “We are currently looking at a variety of options to extinguish the debt to Eskom and HCB, (It can be fixed). If we do that Eskom will increase electricity supplies to Zimbabwe from the current 50 MW to about 400MW,” Chasi added.

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