Enterprising Zimbabweans Cashing In On Power Shortages

“Business is good. People are realising that they have no option but to buy generators for power,” said Tongai Chikwanda, a sales person at Power Connectors.

“Zimbabwe is now like Nigeria, we are now a generator economy,” said Chikwanda who sources generators from South Africa.

A school drop-out and barbershop owner, Tafadzwa Museta, said lack of electricity was affecting his only source of livelihood.

He invested in a second hand generator to beat the power shortages but sometimes the generator gives him problems too.

For almost 30 minutes Museta could not figure out what was wrong with the generator when a Radio VOP correspondent visited him.

Meanwhile two clients who were waiting for him to fix the generator walked away in disappointment.

“This is what gives me headaches in this business,” he said. “Once the power is gone we can only expect it back after many hours and worse still it goes during the day when we are supposed to be doing business,” he added.

Power shortage are affecting potential investment in Zimbabwe despite a number of power projects such as the Zimbabwe-Zambia joint Batoka Power Project, which have been on the cards for years.

The Ministry of Energy has also been endlessly considering power projects around the country. These include the expansion of the Hwange and Kariba Power stations and the construction of a huge methane gas power station in Gokwe. But none of these have taken off yet.

Harare based economist, John Robertson, told Radio VOP: “It’s a chicken and egg situation, without power business cannot happen. Even if the investment climate improves, without addressing these power shortages it will be very difficult to attract investment.”

“The economy can’t function on generators,” he said.

He said only a few companies had negotiated contracts with the power utility, Zimbabwe Electricity Authority (ZESA), to get uninterrupted power supply.

“What this country needs is real investment in the power sector,” said Robertson.

According to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), some companies complain that they lose significant amounts of stock which go bad when power shortages occur.

Jack Murehwa, the Chief Executive Officer of Sable Chemicals, seeking to built its own power station to pump its Kwekwe based plant, recently pleaded with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to act on issues of power generation.

“Electricity is our biggest problem. The ZESA tariffs are too high and we cannot operate optimally at the current rate that’s why we are seeking to build a methane gas power plant at Munyati,” said Murehwa.

Despite the shortages in the local market, it still exports to Botswana and Namibia under some long standing agreements. Recently Mozambique threatened to cut off power supplies to Zimbabwe due to non-payment.