The recent announcement by electric utility Zesa Holdings of a new load shedding schedule has once again raised serious doubts about the country’s ability to achieve the 5.5% growth rate forecast for this year. .
Zesa, in a statement on January 11, announced that the country would experience power cuts to allow the resumption of the rehabilitation of the dam wall of the Kariba South hydroelectric power station.
Zasa had this to say: “Following the Zambezi River Authority’s request to reduce generation levels at Kariba North and Kariba South Power Stations, some units at Kariba South Power Station will be taken out of service on a daily basis to allow the completion of critical works on the dam wall resulting in reduced production levels and reduced load. »
The rehabilitation, which is expected to be completed by January 25, 2022, comes in the wake of a debilitating new wave of power outages. This has severely crippled the fragile business sector which is already grappling with a plethora of challenges including outdated equipment, foreign exchange shortages, low capacity utilization, exchange rate volatility and the COVID-19 pandemic. .
Companies have been forced to suspend shifts and reduce the number of employees, adding to the country’s high unemployment rate. The power outages have also dramatically increased the costs of doing business, with the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) claiming that the outages have increased costs by 150%.
ZNCC noted in its inaugural survey launched last year that despite the cost of electricity being the lowest in the region, power outages had become a major impediment to growth.
According to the ZNCC, Zimbabwe is characterized by erratic power supplies, especially during the winter period when agricultural activities such as winter wheat harvesting will be at their most critical. During this critical period, electricity is a priority for the agricultural sector, leaving other sectors without energy supply.
Although electricity tariffs are among the lowest in the Sadc region, electricity supply is the average businessman’s nightmare. Erratic power supplies have resulted in huge losses for most businesses over the years due to business interruptions, lost time and revenue, damage to machinery and lost data, it has been reported. said.
Nothing illustrates the impact of power shortages on business operations than the revelation that the cost of the Caledonia-run Blanket mine will rise by nearly 80% due to power outages, a bad omen for the outlook for the business. country’s investment.
There can be no economic growth unless the power cuts are urgently resolved. The blackouts point to a bleak year 2022 in terms of economic growth, which the country cannot afford at the moment.