By Sij Ncube
Bulawayo, August 16, 2013 – Zimbabwe’s state-run power utility firm, ZESA, has moved with speed to refute speculation the current crippling electricity load-shedding regime is deliberately being undertaken to sabotage the economy in the wake of the controversial re-election of President Robert Mugabe.
In the run-up to the July 31 poll, ZESA had inexplicably suspended load-shedding in industrial and residential areas.
But following announcement by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that Mugabe garnered 61 percent of the total votes cast against out-going Prime Minister and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s 33 percent, the country was plunged into darkness with ZESA resuming its crippling load-shedding which this week enraged executives in industry and commerce as well as residents.
State media reports were awash on Friday that the intensification of the power outages was in response to Mugabe’s controversial victory against Tsvangirai who has launched a fierce legal battle to overturn the Zanu PF’s controversial win following revelations of rampant and massive rigging by ZEC in favour of the incumbent leader.
But in an unsolicited notice to customers published in the state-run media on Friday, ZESA Holdings said the perception that the load-shedding was in response to Mugabe’s controversial victory was “sadly not correct.”
The power utility claimed that to ensure the smooth running of elections, it requested and received additional electricity support from the Southern African Power Pool which enabled ZESA to effect very minimal load shedding during the election period, adding that this was complimented by an improved performance at Hwange Thermal Power Station.
The power firm attributed the current power outages to the loss of four units over the past two weeks at the Zimbabwe Power Company which allegedly reduced electricity output from 700 megawatts to 200 megawatts. ZESA said after the polls, power imports were reduced because regional power utilities needed to undertake maintenance work which had been deferred.
“The situation is being further compounded by depressed reduced imports due to plant maintenance from Hydro Bassa. These facts, for which there is documentary evidence, clearly show that there is therefore no casual link between the power supply situation and the harmonised polls,” said ZESA.
But critics are adamant that the intensification of load-shedding and Mugabe’s controversial re-election is certainly no coincidence but an indication that industry has no confidence in the re-election of the Zanu PF strongman to stir economic revival. Some fuel retailers were recently forced to slash prices of diesel and price after hiking the products in less than one of Mugabe’s claimed victory in the polls.